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The devil recalls despair
the unforgivable sin
and chuckles. If there is
violence in his violet eyes,
it is hidden in the smoke
of his shrieking cigar.

His companion laughs, clinking cups
(paying, as usual, if I know the old man)
and if he sees despair in those eyes
eyes that shone so brightly in the world’s making
the keenest eyes, to see so far
–too far, he reminds himself, and much too keenly–
eyes which wanted once only to reflect heaven
but turned
and here, he turns away.
It is then, generally
that the devil lets him buy
the first round.

They wage war
in little mercies,
in exacting calculations
of tip and tax and always
always despair is the devil’s watchword.
Who would ask for forgiveness,
knowing that to withhold it
is to hold poison in one’s mouth and wait
for permission to spit?

The devil always
always buys
the second round.