Healthy Fear

by Paul Mathers

The door to her temple was barred to the likes of me,

we who sing for our supper.

I, like her grandson taking a dash too much mercury,

I stand before the door and am told

if I look upon the milkfed serpent within I will be healed.

Before I entered this room, I was in another room

where they told me that the gatekeepers might pay my fare

from the treasury of past sojourner’s surplus or

they might take from me what they think I can do without.

And at the entrance to the temple they told me if I came in I would be saved,

but if I didn’t they would come to my house and take what they pleased.

These stories you hear of caste-fellows told they can afford

what they cannot afford and the chamber has no window,

the door silent as the tomb,

so we must be gentle as doves and wise as an ounce of prevention

lest they wring the life from us like so many necessary sacrifices you hear tell of.

Those who seek to save their life will love it, those without savings mostly.

I don’t know anyone who has done this nor anyone who has refused to,

but I hear the serpent is immense, insatiable, inverted,

and feeds on what is wholesome.

What if they don’t really hunt me down?

What if I’m already clean?

What if the snake devours me?

Anyway, none of it feels healthy.

In this waiting room, we are no better off that we were at any point before.

Within we suspect the beast bites her own tail and

the door to her temple was barred to the likes of me.