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Oaths, Curses, Blessings

As a girl, I learned to hurl a curse              
so it would hurt.  The skill, not in the words
but in the work: bringing the self to feel

another's precious losses as though they were
one's own.  And then, like an informer
against the heart, delivering the blows:

May you wake without air, without light.
May you walk with a league of homeless
shadows  by your side. Although it was play

it frightened me to see a hex take hold
in a friend's eye, to see the crushing sorrows
one can summon with the mind.

Tonight, in the ashen shadows of your room
those curses seem to linger like stray dogs
reminding me, as the unfortunate always do,

of our double lives.  Our tendency to come to terms
too late. Your breadth, like oatmeal's
blooming scent, circles them in a breeze.

Above us, light that should comfort: glow
-in-the-dark stars careen like clockwork
through a black sky. For a lamp: a shuttle that turns

unceasingly over a dimly-lit earth.
I cover you again, although this August night
is still and though it's me that's shaking.

With a different girl behind us, this stillness
might be our grace.  Instead it keeps me here
tonight not praying really, but pacing.


Copyright © 2007 M. B. McLatchey.  All rights reserved.
Published in the Georgetown Review , Spring 2008

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