Anu My Boy, Oh Devil’s Joy

We know him. He lives insistently in each of us, yet always surprises with his shape-shifting – lurking in the corner of a medieval painting, sprung from the underworld; staring down from the crotch of an oak; curled around a menhir thrusting from the barren sod of a bleak moor like a rotten tooth; or jutting open-mouthed from the roof of a cathedral, a deep gash gouged the length of his back, curved in service to the Church. He stares me down until I drop my eyes and see his long-clawed hands, a reptilian tail wrapped around powerful haunches tensed, ready to spring. If he leapt he could tear me to shreds, but it’s his stare that gets me in the end, those golden eyes filled with unspeakable knowledge. That’s why I shout, get away from me! But you can’t get away from yourself.

At times he comes a gentle creature, mewling and groveling, driven mad by bristles puncturing his skin. He whines, a thin painful sound with each breath, as drops of blood fall, turning to pebbles clattering around his hooves.

He tries to hide, but the November moon illuminates a ravenous hunger as he slides bare-faced down a trunk to eat the rotten fruit at the foot, fur thickening against first frost, standing stiffly from his body, masking a rank odor. In summer I try to embrace him, to cover his shame as he molts, his pale scabbed skin exposed to the burning sun, but he flees in fear and curls in the bushes, still as a stone lest his stench betray him to predators.

He is the Cheshire Cat without the smile; he is the child at the checkout screaming for candy, dragged outside, scarlet with rage; he is the red stain on the parking lot concrete, the reek of smoke at the emergency exit, the thickness in the air at the back of the club where deals are done. He dances hidden inside the crowd, then slithers under the bar, calves pressed against the back of his thighs, head bent sideways, chin spooned into a hollowed clavicle. I see from the corner of my eye as we beat the floor with our clubbed feet Anu snatch the cocktail stick from my martini glass, work it to loosen a pebble embedded in his hoof. His struggle done, the pebble dissolves; Anu inhabits me as bright blood flowing in my veins, shocking me, wounded by his mortality.

Now we begin to remember. Together we strut and ape those memories that come unbidden from a place of mystery. We start over, again and again; he strikes a pose, I smile, he grimaces, I whine and spin, my face angled like a hung woman to the sky where a constellation of stars shines upon our contortions. Slowly, slowly, creeping slow, we enter a state of grace witnessed by the heavenly bodies, until we are filled with something we cannot grasp and yet contain. He knows himself a vessel and, despite the futility of it, spills himself over and over, blood and seed mixing, wounds of ecstasy, and I stand witness until we find ourselves twinned in a caul of shame, caught in the Devil’s hammock, cradled there, blood splashing and sizzling as we are rocked by an all-powerful hand. Then it all begins again, over and over, memories piling one atop another, never to be grasped.

               We are not alone.