THE DEVIL YOU KNOW

 

I

At catechism (fixed questions and answers)
I was the starred pupil, 
           keen and neat: 
                        awarded
a glow-in-the-dark plastic rosary
the novelty of which was unspeakable,
                                                              almost holy—    

We cut its pieces apart
and hid them around the room
then, squealing with glee
               joyful and fearless
                            in the darkness
identified the beads as nuclear boogers,
atomic hailstones
and, tossing the cross
             (which didn’t glow) 
in the craft drawer for later projects, 
compared our bounty
              to spoils of war—
                        as children do
                                    before the notions of deity.

                                                                                  Sacred assumptions
                                                                               wholly result in human
                                                                                               mortification.

 

II

Cure is the end of medical condition—
a hallowed substance, or
               procedure, or
                             resultant change in condition
of the well-healed.

Holy difference between cured
                                                  and not dead
that is,     survival of the non-cured;         
a sacred invitation
               to spontaneous regression.
Thou shalt
                          never endeavour to break a fever:
a quell of symptoms may prevent
               breakthrough cure,
                         shorten time to get the job done.

When calling upon God
let nothing be set in stone;
if sickness lies riddling within—
some segments
              must be sacrificed,
                       and opposing portions
                               preserved, as if with salt.

                                                                              Cure is equal to
                                                               survival of the non-cured,
                                                                                 asymptomatic.

 

III

Vicious evil unfolds
              just above the knee
on days of stockingless
skirts before the delicious
            sight of summer flesh
                          is custom. 
Pinpointing
where resistance lies
whether it is site-specific
               or within grains of tempted fortitude
bounded by habit
                known/performed, 
                            embodied: him in Me—
Sin is sin, beauty,
           is in the eye of the beholden.
Hazard is the thread
            that unravels as rule-followers
                        (in moments of ill-will)
                                  succumb
to uninspired vanities—

Where is Help then, oh redeemer of rewards?
Faults lie along perimeters
                  and in living flesh heavenly fodder.

Rapture is such
                                                  divine conceit—

                                                                                      What’s it like to be
                                                               with your soulmate, he hissed in
                                                                                   semiconscious ears.


Emily Sanford was born in Nova Scotia and holds an MA in Literature and Performance from the University of Guelph. She is the winner of the 2016 Eden Mills Writers' Festival Literary Award for Poetry, and was shortlisted for the Janice Colbert Poetry Award. She lives and works in downtown Toronto.