“Fate’s Pass” by Barry Ballard

Barry Ballard

FATE’S PASS

Sleep came not near my couch–while the hours
waned and waned away. I struggled to reason off
the nervousness which had dominion over me.
–Edgar Allan Poe,
Fall of the House of Usher

Poe taught me that the mind is bricked up like
a muffled voice illuminated
by a single flickering light, almost dead
and suffocating while clawing without sight
at the lining of its own coffin. He
said that it repeats, repeats, and repeats all
the desperation in the deadfall
of its owner, nailed in the heartbeat

of shadows disturbing his slumber. He said
it always lays us flat on our backs, strapped
to the island of Fate’s darkest dream
etched in the horizon, with Frailty spread
to the sweep (and the sweep) of its breathing pass,
driving us to awareness and its wakened scream.

from Rattle #21, Summer 2004