The Beast Inside My Chest

The beast inside my chest
lies in wait beneath my shirt.
It hides in the pause between
my heartbeats,
in the lull of my breath.
It is not a beast most people would find threatening;
my beast is
a quiet beast.
I’ll wake up sometimes and think it’s gone.
I should know by now it’s
a lie; a game of peekaboo.
Most people don’t get it.
They don’t know what sharing with a beast is like.
It lurks in my step
while I go about my day.
It feeds on my breaths, one every two or so–
one, two, three, devoured
one, two, devoured
one, two — suffocating.

I pretend not to see it. We go on like this.
But I know it lies on top of
all the things I have to do,
purring.
It hoards my initiative and my ideas in its den;
it sharpens its claws on my future.
“Listen”, I say, “this can’t go on.
I have to have my life at some point.
I have to do these things and
say these words and write these letters.”
And the beast purrs,
“But you’re still gonna look away.
Because if you don’t see me
I am not here,
never here,
never was.”
This is my life,
and my things to do,
but my beast is a territorial beast
and it won’t concede.
I look away.
My piles of things to do,
my baskets of life to live,
my spoonfuls of time to swallow
collect dust just to the left of my line of sight.
Barely enough to see them; barely enough to feel bad.
I look away and
it is never enough.

When the beast finally moves
it is to come sit on my chest.
“Honey, I’m home,” it says
and I’m left to wonder
how can people not see it
with its sly smile
with its cold weight
when it has its claws buried
ten inches deep in my lungs.

a.a.

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