it's okay
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i looked him in the eye
that dirtied man across the standing figures cut from pine
his smile i could not pry

not quite a scent of death
but wetted earth unbaked by hearth and worked in work-stained hands
pervaded every breath

his callus-coated palm
those steep demands upon his hands that craftsmanship commands
in desperate need of balm

say "who am i to judge a man
by face or scent or scar-struck hand"
and hark, say i, such was my plan:
i'd come to find a storied man
and take from him, for price of gold
a chilling story to be told
through trinket, fetish, portend cold
and from such stories…

… look, poets need to eat, too. we can't all be artists for the sake of art.
(and lest this story fall apart):

upon his stand
(though carved by hand)
of rough-hewn pine unsmoothed by sand
like monsters from some hellish land
stood proud a demon-visage'd band
of thieves and brutes and destitutes, a grand demand
you understand
how such foul things misunderstand
the faces, feel, and forms of man

and surely such features accursed
in them carried fortunes perversed

with hope their fates adjoin
upon my own, that i bemoan through poetry their woe
i offered up my coin

and so, wrapped all in twine
the darkest three (at least to me): a demon, crone, and czar
were taken in as mine

and so upon my desk
that beast bazaar's three beasts bizarre, my three-pronged guiding star,
leer down on me, grotesque

i go to sleep in shudd'ring joy
exulting in my darkened ploy
that some unholy ghost or curse
may feed my future written verse

…i dream of sheep.
they are not angry;
their do not bleat of my sins in unison;
their horns are no larger than what i might expect of sheep;
they are simply sheep.

the beasts that look upon my work
who leer and growl and darkly smirk
make no attempt/seem quite content
to lead me 'stray/I go my way
(or if they've made their move
i've not noticed)

… i dream i'm back at the academy.
i'm late to class;
it's terrifying,
but i can't say i haven't dreamed such a thing before.

my next night,
pen alight,
greatness shines in all i write;
but scarcely can i think or see
three icons of grotesquery
play part or muse or daemon to
such lovey-dovey sap.

… i don't even remember what i dream of.

so it turns out
those figurines?
they aren't actually cursed.
they just look funny.

… although
if you ask me
"do you regret your purchase, poet"
"has this ordeal proved fatiguing"
let it be said that
curse or no curse,
the craftsmanship
was quite intriguing.

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