Home > Poetry > How to Curse a Demon
Published: Mon Jun 27 2022
Wosene Worke Kosrof, The Inventor V (detail), 2022, acrylic on linen. Courtesy of Sullivan Goss Gallery, Santa Barbara, California
How to Curse a Demon

Slop some sugar on
it, slip some lucre
to it, whisper sweeter
and more cheaply
nothings, gather deeper,
dobbered gossip,
whistle frailly
while you still it, be
for once its silky
mama, muted
sense it snow-like,
doe-like in faint twilight,
stroke and stroke
and strike it silly,
brush its hair until
it glitters, shine
its scales until they
wither, bring
a bubble to its
bursting and the prayer
to its answer, fling
the dagger to its
anger, hold a candle
higher to it, be the
lost swan in
its last totemic
song, the thin pin-
head its scanty
dance upon.

Hailey Leithauser is the author of two poetry collections: Saint Worm (Able Muse Press, 2019) and Swoop (Graywolf Press, 2013), which won the Poetry Foundation’s Emily Dickinson First Book Award and the Towson Prize for Literature. She has recent or forthcoming work in The Birmingham Poetry Review, 32 Poems, Cincinnati Review, The Hopkins Review, Plume, Poet Lore, AGNI, Alaska Quarterly Review, Hampden-Sydney Poetry Review, and The Yale Review. She lives outside of Washington, DC, and teaches occasionally at the Bethesda Writer’s Center and the West Chester Poetry Conference. (updated 4/2022)

Leithauser’s AGNI poem “The Moon Speaks of Polar Bears” was chosen for The Best New Poets 2010.

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