Naming the Darkness

James Martin, SJ, sent out this gospel-inspired tweet: “In the tale of the Gerasene demoniac, the darkness must be recognized and named before it can be cast out. You must name it clearly.” Here is the poem that Pedro Poitevin translated into Spanish recently for publication in Letras Libres. It is taken from my book Elegy for Everyone:

What To Call It 

Suppose we call the monster Monster?
Would it create a stir?
Till now, we have addressed the monster
Timidly, as Sir.

We’ve left him ravaging in peace;
We’ve given him his way.
He got a nicely-rounded niece
To picnic on in May.

We prayed for her; and prayed that he
Would find her to his taste.
It tears at one’s insides to see
The offering go to waste.

Much good it’s done us. Hear him roar.
We’ve whet his appetite.
It’s made him clamor all the more
And rattle things at night.

We keep awake. We count our sins.
No man of us is blessed.
He prowls among our might-have-beens,
Too violent to rest.

And no one calls the monster Monster.
We have ourselves to blame.
You don’t domesticate a monster
By using a pet name.

We ought to use the tautonym.
No ifs or ands or buts—
We need a name that sticks to him
Like a dried string of guts.

Monster. Monster. Monster. Monster.
—Say it if you can.
What innocent would trust a monster
To be a gentleman?

                                           —Alfred Nicol