The instant he read it, he loved it.
He adored its metaphors
marching across the page like an army
of black brides, exultant and shining.
He lauded its alliteration,
its loose and lovely vowels,
the queenly crooning of its consonants.
He admired its profundity.
It had changed his life.
He tore it from the book
and kept it in his pocket,
pulled it out six times each day,
wore its paper thin with caressing,
creased it into tatters with his constant
folding and unfolding, even though
he’d memorized it.
Once an hour, he declaimed it
loudly for friends and colleagues,
dramatically at cocktail parties
or on the occasional street-corner,
or softly to himself, such reverent whispers.
The poem, however, did not love him.
He didn’t understand her.
He read her all wrong,
stopping at the ends of lines,
ignoring her enjambments.
His tongue poked
at her soft syllables.
She detested his incessant handling,
the probing of his dread eye.
Always, always, he put her
He acted like he owned her.
They found his body the next morning—
death by a thousand paper cuts.
And the poem? Gone,
flown out the open window,
free to pursue a million ears
to a world without pockets.
Sandi Leibowitz is a school librarian, classical singer and writer of speculative fiction and poetry. Her work appears in Liminality, Stone Telling, Inkscrawl, Mythic Delirium, Ellen Datlow’s Best Horror of the Year 5 and other magazines and anthologies. A native New Yorker, she has ridden in a hot-air balloon over the Rio Grande, traveled in the footsteps of medieval pilgrims to Santiago de la Compostella and visited with Arthur in Avalon.