Old Things in New Ways: A Poetic Demonstration

The best skill of a writer is being able to look at something, or someone, or somewhere and see something else entirely. I could tell you how it works, but I don’t have to; I can show you instead. See if you can tell me what this poem’s really about.

Demon’s Bargain

I knew a girl, once.

She’d sold her soul to a demon with twelve eyes.

By day it slept in her pocket,

Waking only to cry for her attention.

By night it rested at her bedside,

Feeding from her wall,

Watching her dreams.

Her devotion to it was total.

If it called to her while reading,

The book was soon forgotten;

If it needed her while she was among friends,

Her friends would have to do without her.

Its summons could pull her from her cooking,

From meals, from cleaning, even from the shower.

Only for her professor would it be silent

(Are all professors demon-slayers?)—

And even then,

She looked to it constantly,


Silently begging its forgiveness.

We worked at the same place, that summer;

I hoped the work would free her.

But its elder brother made its claim on her,

Chaining her to the desk with a spiral cord.

Its calls were even more insistent,

Its demands stronger.

Even its younger sibling was silenced.

She hated it even as she served it.

All around me are those demons,

Leering from people’s pockets,

Tucked safely in their purses;

Clinging with a deathgrip to their belts,

Or in a place of honor over their hearts.

One has made its lair in my home:

It perches on the wall, an ivory spider,

Flinging out its web during dinner.

One has taken over my sister’s room,

And I sit outside and wonder—

What unholy bargains is she making?

What temptations does it offer?

Three months into college…

I have avoided the lure of the demon on my wall,

But my parents have fallen,

And given me a little one of my own.

It curls up in a small, silver carapace;

It is small, but that makes it more dangerous.

They say it will watch over me,

Tell them when I’m in trouble…

What price will it exact?

My friends rejoice that I have joined the possessed;

They teach me to make its siren song more to my liking,

Show me the delights it offers to steal my minutes.

How the mighty have fallen.

But then, one day…

Lunch an eternity alone,

It purrs in my pocket,

Tells me my attention is needed.

Lets me speak to a friend, while away the time…

And I think that perhaps…

Perhaps a soul is not such a high price after all.

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