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The Itch 

Often it can't be scratched,

And rarely defined this human itch.

It tickles just beyond reach,

And niggles below the briefness

Of accomplishment.

Some say love is the calming salve,

While some say it is the cause,

And still others blame Job

For forcing the question.

And I once prayed in chapels

That echoed with

Congregational scratching,

The dull pulse of eruption,

And the soft sighs

Of buggering priests.

I have seen the bleeding,

The split and brittle nails

Of those who smile

Propped by hope and delusion.

My father drank to calm his rash,

My mother shopped,

And my lover steeled behind her pride.

Still I find no soothing ointment,

And my dreams and meditations

Have yet to pry the bug from my


But sometimes,

Sometimes I glance at the sky

And watch a barn swallow

Bank and glide

Into the healing blue

Of purpose.

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Philip Middlemiss

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