Weldon Kees

(1914 - 1955 / Nebraska / United States)

The Furies


Not a third that walks beside me,
But five or six or more.
Whether at dusk or daybreak
Or at blinding noon, a retinue
Of shadows that no door
Excludes.--One like a kind of scrawl,
Hands scrawled trembling and blue,
A harelipped and hunchbacked dwarf
With a smile like a grapefruit rind,
Who jabbers the way I do
When the brain is empty and tired
And the guests no longer care:
A clown, who shudders and suddenly
Is a man with a mouth of cotton
Trapped in a dentist's chair.

Not a third that walks beside me,
But five or six or more:
One with his face gone rotten,
Most hideous of all,
Whose crutches shriek on the sidewalk
As a fingernail on a slate
Tears open some splintered door
Of childhood. Down the hall
We enter a thousand rooms
That pour the hours back,
That silhouette the walls
With shadows ripped from war,
Accusing and rigid, black
As the streets we are discolored by.
The crutches fall to the floor.

Not a third that walks beside me,
But five or six, or more
Than fingers or brain can bear--
A monster strung with guts,
A coward covered with hair,
Matted and down to his knees,
Murderers, liars, thieves,
Moving in darkened rows
Through daylight and evening air
Until the eyelids close,
Snapped like the blades of a knife,
And your dream of their death begins.
Possessors and possessed,
They keep the bedside wake
As a doctor or a wife
Might wait the darkness through
Until the pale daybreak--
Protectors of your life.

Submitted: Monday, January 13, 2003

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