Back to the crossroads

The midnight hour was rolling round. The town was like a tomb.
All the people slept like rocks – except for me. In my lonely room
The lamps burned late. My thoughts conspired to keep me from my bed.
I was wide awake, so I decided to take a walk to clear my head.

Through silent streets I wandered. Ragged storm clouds hid the moon.
I was kept on course by some unseen force, so it seemed to me, and soon
I reached the crossroads. Nothing stirred. I sniffed the air, and then
From out of the gloom came a voice of doom: “My, my; it’s you again.”

I spun round. There he stood: the Devil, bathed in ghastly light.
He frowned. “So, pray, what brings you way out here this time of night?
For most to meet me once is quite enough: not you, it seems.
Did I not do all you asked me to? Come on, boy, spill the beans.”

I swallowed hard and I said, “At first, all you promised would befall
Didn’t quite convince, even though you’re the Prince of the Underworld and all.”
He glared. “I ought to roast you here and now: you dared to doubt?
I may be the Devil, but I’m on the level. So, how’d it all turn out?”

“I’m writing night and day,” I said. He laughed. “I told you so.”
“But I’m worn and sad and three parts mad as well.” He seemed to glow
With pleasure. “Said I’d fix for you, son, and was I wrong?”
I said, “Oh sure, you found the cure; but your medicine’s awful strong.”

The Devil grinned. “Hell, don’t blame me, boy; everybody knows
There ain’t no gain without some pain.” “Except for bankers, CEOs
And politicians, right?” I said. He smirked. “There’s no exception:
They’ll get theirs too when I claim my due. I’ve prepared a warm reception.”

“That’s good to know,” I said, “but to return to my condition:
I think I may be heading way down the long road to perdition.
I wanted immortality, I know, but truth to tell,
This writing lark’s no walk in the park: it’s a kind of living hell.”

“I’d choose my words more carefully if I were you,” he said.
“Just tell me what concerns you’ve got. What’s messing with your head?”
“This doubt, self-loathing, angst and strain that I’ve been living through.
Give me a break; I just can’t take much more. I’m begging you.”

The Devil lashed his tail; his eyes flamed red with furious fire.
“Do you suppose any one of those great names you so admire
Would have ever written, sung, composed, played, painted or invented
If I’d not been behind the scenes to keep their souls tormented?

“If you want life to be a breeze and free from pain, then fine;
I’ll push it through – but I’m warning you: don’t you come back and whine
To me your mojo’s gone and now you can’t write worth a damn.
You think real hard before you play that card. Just remember who I am.”

“So, Satan, are you saying this is how it has to be?”
I said. “To write, I have to fight through all this misery?
The Devil shrugged. “Depends. If you’re content with poetry
That sticks to themes like murmuring streams and sunset on the sea,

How much you love your mother, granny, cupcakes or the cat
Then have no fear, I’m out of here – you don’t need me for that.
But if you want to plumb the depths of life, the human heart,
The dread and dirt, the hate and hurt, then let me play my part.”

A silence fell. At length, I said, “Well, put that way, you’re right.
I see, Old Nick, I need to stick with you.” “I thought you might,”
The Devil said. “I’m glad we got that straight – and if you ride
Out with me, son, we’ll have some fun. But expect a darker side.”

The moon emerged. “I like your suit,” I said. “It fits so well.
That Prada?” “Yes, how did you guess?” “Oh, just a hunch. So, tell
Me: where to next?” “To sow discord around the world and such.
But from what I see you don’t need me to help you all that much.”

The Devil rose and brushed a speck of something off his sleeve.
“Dawn’s on its way, and so I’ll say ‘so long’ and take my leave.”
He vanished, and I headed home. But our meeting proved symbolical.
For all my pen’s produced since then has been truly diabolical.