Erin Belieu
In Which a Therapist Asks for the Gargoyle Who Sits on My Chest

Better say first,

the gargoyle requested,


I doubt he’ll appear.


A fragrant character at most,

he’s so metal, and hard to woo,


and God knows I’m terrible

at therapy—


the pushy box of tissues,


and kindly on-the-clock

neutrality. It’s exhausting,


how the whole’s designed to scrub

our greasy pan of sorrows to

a gleam in which we’ve actually paid


to see ourselves. Caveat emptor?


O, verily.

To talk and talk like this is what

the age calls progress


that peculiar human rage for moving

forward, like tourists walking off

of cliffs while taking selfies.


But since I’ve come to talk,


and urged to use my similes:

it’s apt to say I feel

most like a Fenian Incursion—


the third botched skirmish,

specifically. God bless the Irish,


(those poets), for thinking they

could hotwire Canada, then sell it

to the British.


Though, this makes perfect sense  


to me, another unsurprising

outcome of an ill considered plot,


conjured awkward in a haystack

near a town namesaked for that

rebellion’s leader, one John O’Neill—


a man with such a gift for losing,

he finally thought he’d really rather

not die trying,


(and proving, therapeutically,

it’s best to recognize your limits).


Charged with speaking honestly,


I’ll confide I think it late for

custom-order hindsight, or rigged


stories spat into our mouths when we

were only infants by the one hostile

fairy not invited to the party.


What patterns there might be

emerged Cassandra-style,


with inner portents left

for me to sort, then artfully

ignore for half a century. Maybe that’s


the weight we grown ups mule, being

un-translated books the book club

never votes to read: its measure


heavy as the Easter Island glyphs of

Rongorongo, a mystery bitten into

wood by ancient shark’s teeth.


Maybe it’s enough to recognize


ourselves unsolvable, half trash,

half glitter bomb, dropped along

the trench by dying stars.


The French say, Who can say?


And since they basically invented

what we know of dread, and food,


and love, this seems a likely place

to make like Ginger Rogers


forever waltzing backward down

the stairs, partnered with a man

who never liked her;


that feathered, practiced creature,

bleeding in her heels,


her steps not what I’d call the act

of any faith, but more a process


of elimination. Until she finds

the bottom, searching for her mark,


spinning toward the promised spots of light.


Found In Volume 47, No. 05
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Erin Belieu
About the Author

Erin Belieu is the author of four collections of poetry, all published by Copper Canyon Press. Her most recent poems have appeared in The New York Times T magazine, Poetry, The Academy of American Poets’ Poem-A-Day, and Willow Springs. Belieu teaches in the Creative Writing MFA/Ph.D. program at Florida State University, and for the Lesley Low Residency MFA in Cambridge, MA.