The bargain was that he would recollect

each moment of his life entirely—

every touch and taste, no detail lost.

The past would shine forth, not in blinding flashes

but meaningfully the way that music moves,

making a pattern out of every note.

The price was that he had a single year

to contemplate the secrets of his life

before the memories vanished utterly.

“It’s a fair deal,” the Devil said. “A life

in payment for a life. You won’t want more.

Trust me—for most lives, twice is once too often.

“My friend, I’d have your soul in any case.

I’ve made this offer for my own amusement.

The artist is my favorite customer.”

Oddly enough, he did believe the demon.

What point was there revisiting the past?

Why enter that gray Garden of Medusa

To wander through its mute memorials?

Better to let the rain pit, and the years

Erode those granite visages. And yet . . .

He hungered for the stones of memory.

It was the pain itself that he was after

not to alleviate but to perfect—

The delectation of his own damnation—

To earn the blessings of oblivion.

Smiling at Lucifer, he signed his name.

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This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 33 Number 7, on page 24
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