Day 19 – “Sin Eater”
And if it were, as I had prayed,
I’d come away and taken
just a portion of your suffering,
lodged like a barb between my ribs,
or something sly and leathery,
teeth sunk in my neck;
and there had been somehow just
a moment in the storm where
a dove might fly, might call;
and if it had been like that other time,
the demon face in night, laughing
as it thumped into my heart,
taking me instead – I’d drowned it,
like a pig, with tears,
as stories taught to do –
if it had been so, this second time, then
I think the thing that lodged was
only what could find a home. It
was mine as well. Echo thrown
of anguish. I’ve carried it, from you,
from me, and now…
I must prepare a bath. I
shall not drown it this time.
Rather, let it go cleanly into rain.
-Math Jones 2020
The Sin Eater
I am never hungry, unlike so many. Never do I go without humans around me. I am always clothed.
Yet, I am looked through and receive instructions on where to go, what to eat. I have certainty of the place I will go after I die.
Unlike you my path takes me to Hell. Repent I hear you call. Except the sins I carry are with me, staining my soul as we speak. I eat and richly, sometimes. It all depends on how much of a confession meal was called for. The food I’ll eat on your behalf so you can get to Heaven. Because I listened to your sins, that nobody knows but me, I will slip into Hell stained forever with your crimes. You will dance in Heaven while I burn. So this sumptuous meal before me could be of a rich man’s table. Some haunch of venison and sweet meats. Rich fruits and wines. The palates of a gentle lady, today. A chunk of bread and bowl of broth tomorrow. It all tastes the same.
Don’t raise your eyebrows in disbelief. It all tastes of ashes. For I feel myself slipping away day by day.
Outside of your home, as inside, nobody speaks to me the living, breathing, sin eating ghost. I wander the streets ignored. No one will turn their head in my direction, offer me a smile, or say hello.
They seem to think I’m both a blessing and a curse. As such their fear of me is palpable. Head’s turn away from me, eyes dart away. They think I can see inside their soul. That my gaze will strike deep into them. I will somehow know their darkest secrets. Some of them have dark things to tell. Some of which I know already. Nobody talks to me, that’s forbidden. But, I listen, I hear everything. I know exactly what people do when they think nobody is watching.
So, as I wander the streets a living, breathing, cursed ghost I am shunned. Ignored by the people I may have grown up with, had life been different. But life is something not everyone has. Existence is for those of us without choice.
I wear a band of metal around my neck so everyone knows who I am. I receive messages under cover of darkness. Go to this person who wants you now. Eat their sins so they may make their journey in peace.
The so called great and good are among the worst sinners. But while there are those like me, condemned and desperate, they will go to their final rest free of their misdeeds. However big. So they believe. I know to say such things is heresy. It’s not as if I live a life of luxury. No husband will ever be mine, no babe will suckle from my breast.
And still I have harmed none in my poverty. I simply listen, eat and smile. Digesting darkness and debauchery that is fed up with the meal and yet it touches me not. I know what I do is looked upon with disdain.
Will I need a sin eater, when my time comes? No. Will their sins qualify me for Hell or Heaven. I no longer believe it is the case that listening and eating coats me in guilt.
But they shall find out when they pass. My voice would not be heard even if I spoke.
-©Ailsa Cawley 2021
The Sin Eater
As you die I’ll feast on your “Thou shalt nots.”
My fried chips is your Lust for another.
My boiled egg is your Envy of others lot.
Roast beef is your Thieving from your brother.
This lean bacon is your Pride. So proudful.
These baked beans are your endless Gluttony,
Laziness your job, turnip your Slothful.
Salt and pepper Wrath forever angry.
Thankyou to your family and friends pence
and free meal of bread and ale. The rest dream
I dreamt myself with each mouthful. Have sense
shun me now. Your dead Heaven bound serene.
I’ll heft these inside myself. Pale Hunger
my constant friend for a short while longer.
Bios And Links
is London-born, but is now based in Oxford. He has two books published: Sabrina Bridge, a poetry collection, from Black Pear Press (2017), and The Knotsman, a collection of verse, rhyme, prose and poetic monologue, which tell of the life and times of a C17th cunning-man. Much of his verse comes out of mythology and folklore: encounters with the uncanny and unseen. Also, as words written for Pagan ritual or as praise poems for a multitude of goddesses and gods. He is a trained actor and performs his poems widely.
has been writing stories, poems and verses since she was a child.
It’s not always what is considered poetry by some, as she isn’t a lover of sweet, schmaltzy rhymes!
She is currently writing her first novel. A psychological thriller with a paranormal element, and she hopes to bring out a poetry collection one day!
She lives on the Isle of Skye. While some of her poetry is written from personal experience, others are written from her slightly dark and twisted imagination.