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Published: Sat Oct 15 2011
Eva Lundsager, Were now like (detail), 2021, oil on canvas
Milton’s Satan

Diabolical heat for this time of year.
There’s the whir and hiss of my fan.
A digital clock blinks on its table.
Self-will is pulsing:
I ache to fly off and find the last of our children,
gone too far away to college.
The nest is empty. It’s burned. The ceiling

of her room still shows her poster for Some Like It Hot.
It’s shriveling after long years
when Monroe looked down on a herd of plush deer
and other mild creatures
now ragged with age. I imagine imagination
might cool my soul: I wrestle to mind
a gentle meadow dotted with flowers,

the checkered shade of a hardwood stand in fall,
a small brook’s ice-jeweled pools,
and last, an unmarred quilt of snow
on our cellar bulkhead_._
Such willful visions won’t hold. The meadow is scorched
and tunneled by rodents, parasites thrive
in the trees, mosquitoes will hatch from the streambed.

The snow looks pure. Mercury laces its flakes.
Her absence is bodily ache.
It throbs. It scalds. There are reasons to think of Satan,
his imperious will,
its ruinous conflagrations. Which way I fly,
the poet’s devil claims, is hell.
Satan says, Myself am hell.

See what's inside AGNI 74

Sydney Lea is the author of twenty-four books: a novel, five volumes of personal essays, three of critical essays, and fifteen poetry collections, including the forthcoming What Shines (Four Way Books, 2024). A finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and winner of the Poets’ Prize, he is founding editor of New England Review. He served as Vermont’s poet laureate from 2011 to 2015, and in 2021, he received the state’s most prestigious arts distinction: the Governor’s Award for Excellence. (updated 4/2023)

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