Reflections on the Beast


I had trouble forming your picture last night.
A wind was blowing up from your grave.
It closed all windows with a crash.
It swirled and tossed across the hills.
I pieced together a pale shadowy woman,
A woman who swelled up near death,
As though secretly you wanted to explode,
But didn’t know how.

Then I remembered your story of the beast,
The one who came crawling out of family photographs,
Popping up at reunions with an idiot smile.
The one who took children and mangled them in its jaws.
The one who was God’s Army for God and Devil were one.
The one who talked behind its hands when you walked the streets.
The one who took you out of school to become a Swampmother.
The one who gave you shock treatment for post-natal depression.
The one who tapped at the window when you sat alone,
Singing knickknack paddywack, give the beast a bone.
The one who laughed and laughed, and grinned and grinned,
As you looked in the mirror and saw the beast within.

I remembered the beast in your eyes in those years,
Nothing eyes, only in storms did they come alive.
Some die in these storms, others commit suicide.
This worried you most of all.
You could not root the beast out.
You offered it flesh. It ate flesh.
You offered it milk. It drank milk.
You offered all you had.
The beast took you, bored with games.
It sang, tralala, tralala, and moved on.

from The Pest Exterminator’s Shakespeare (Macarthur Institute Press, 1988), © Gary Langford 1988, used by permission of the author

Gary Langford in the Poetry Store

The free tracks you can enjoy in the Poetry Archive are a selection of a poet’s work. Our catalogue store includes many more recordings which you can download to your device.