Bit By Bloody Bit (David Adès)

Bitten once                                          bitten a second time
I averted my face                                turned my cheek

in time for the stinging slap               a palm’s red imprint
fury unleashed                                    the sting of scorn

the slow burn learn                             of reason as hindrance
reason uncalled for                             unwanted

attempted as always                           attempted
lesson of gasoline                               finding fire.

So bitten                                               and bitten
I bit down hard                                     on my tongue

clamping the rise of words                 useless in their uttering
tasted blood                                         in my mouth

tasted blood’s                                      warm intoxication:
neither redemption                              nor absolution

neither guilt                                          nor penance
and this way                                         swallowing

biting my tongue                                  over and over
bit                                                           by bloody bit

the words bitten off                              swallowed
envoys, messengers                             cut down before arrival

the field littered                                     bloodied with little corpses
I bit my tongue off                                 bit by bit

until, tongue-less                                  all that was left
was a scream                                         renting the air

the poisoned silence                             hoarse, bereft, endless.

David Ades’s most recent poetry collection, Mapping the World, can be purchased from Wakefield Press.