Home > Poetry > Milton’s Satan
Published: Sat Oct 15 2011
Wosene Worke Kosrof, The Inventor V (detail), 2022, acrylic on linen. Courtesy of Sullivan Goss Gallery, Santa Barbara, California
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.

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Sydney Lea was Vermont poet laureate from 2011 to 2015. He is the author of thirteen poetry collections, including the forthcoming Here (Four Way Books, anticipated September 2019), a novel, and four volumes of personal essays, including What’s the Story?: Reflections on a Life Grown Long (Green Writers Press, 2015). The founder and longtime editor of New England Review and a former Pulitzer finalist, he lives in Newbury, Vermont. (updated 4/2019)

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