Spring 2009, Volume 6

Poetry by Lauren Scharhag

Chasing the Worm

Satan doesn't have to come to me. I'll go to him.
I expect to see him: waiting, massive,

I am too impatient for the bottle.
I chew through pure blue agave,
greedy for the gusano.

Buffeted by protein, elixired, armored,
I am prepared for him, machete in one hand,
jar in the other.

This is the fly nest that grew in his chest:
Beelzebub heart, bottle-green.
It takes an insect heart to catch an insect heart.

No one will believe me. I will die an old drunk
with my artifacts and curios. But when they bury me,
I will return, a hero, to the worms.

Totem Tortuga

La tortuga swims inexorably
through my consciousness,
chastening me with his ageless stare.

"Where is the hare?" I ask.
I always try to be irreverent
when I am nervous or guilty.

"Dead," comes the reply.

He pities me like the hare:
my warm blood,
my short and hasty life.

The Trick of Falling Asleep

is breathing, he tells me.

It seems to me no less a feat
than sword-swallowing
or a hot-coal stroll,
this being able to slip
so quickly and easily away.

He has but to settle in, and,
in under a minute, I kid you not,
he's departed for sweeter mental climes,
And snoring in under five.
An escape artist of the first order.

And I lie there, listening,
I struggle to match my breathing to his,
but it seems I do not have control over my breath
any more than I could enchant my bones
dislocating a shoulder to escape
strait-jacketed stunts
or perform any other

I might steal sleep in sips,
skim a light doze like a one-woman trapeze
before that plunging feeling has me flitting again
for the platforms of wakefulness and anxiety.

My heart skittish, I peel back lids to find
walls, curtain, mirror
flickering in what has become
the sinister lantern-box of the bedroom.

Feverishly, I hunt for hidden doors
to release the doves
or slip away beneath the floor

The night stage is no place
for wandless wanderers
or dreamless wonders.

Every rustle jostles, each palm conceals
and even illumination
is illusory

while beside me, the conjuror
laughs a little in his sleep
no secrets revealed.

BIO:  Lauren Scharhag is a writer of poetry and fiction. Her work has appeared most recently in Compass Rose, cold-drill, A Tender Touch and a Shade of Blue, and In the Mist. She is currently trying to get her novel published. She lives in Kansas City, MO and is a student at Rockhurst University.