Clare Welsh


Two Conundra

“I believe in a power greater than myself that can restore me to sanity.”
These words like chalk on the tongue. When, ever, did great power restore sanity? After contorting Samson’s body for politics, God’s great power singed the hero as he shook the columns, collapsed the house on himself and 3,000 Philistines (this the first of many words for other for
less than people). When I was older, sober, my body a healthy, educated disguise, I walked with a colleague in the shadow of an underpass. Concrete loomed monumental, a temple. A toothless woman with fluffy, purple slippers shook a can: tin rain, tin rain. I gave her my coffee. My colleague waited until we left the shadow before whispering, “don’t be nice to junkies, it just
encourages them.” He was afraid the woman, like a dog, a bitch, would follow us home.
Because despair still shook a column in me, I said,
“Are you whispering because she’s on heroin or because she’s
poor and on heroin?”
“It’s different if you can afford it,” he said.
He’s right. It’s different if you can afford it.
“Out of the eater, something to eat; out of the strong, something sweet.”
Samson’s riddle. An inconvenient holy verse, evoking death-pleasure. Some years are slain lions with bees in the bones. Honey caracasses. I still miss the way those years needled my arms, bruised my joints like burnt doors swinging.
Before his murder-suicide, Samson declared,
“let me die with the Philistines!”
Addiction is not powerlessness, but power turned self-abuse: anti-hero with a thousand faces. In the shower, my long hair fell out and I lost my power. I lay in the tub then a hospital bed, two white urns for frailty. That is how the cycle breaks. That is how it must break. With final tremors, the collapsing house, the snap snap crash. If the anti-hero survives, they walk away with stones in mouth: tin rain, tin rain. Speaking their story, they sputter rubble,

arrange it in a circle: The shape the mouth makes for Hell or help.


CLARE WELSH is a writer and photographer based in New Orleans. A graduate of the MFA writer’s workshop at the University of New Orleans, her work has appeared in McSweeny’s Internet Tendencies, Southern Glossary, Poets Reading The News, NPR, WHIV New Orleans, and other places on air, in print, and online. Her chapbook “Chimeras” is available through Finishing Line Press.