The shadow stretches from behind the eyes
the length of the spine, peeling off the back
of my head, a long-tailed reptile feeding
from the base of my brain. People stare past my eyes

they don’t look at me, they only see the shadow
lurking. I try to pretend everything is normal
count the days of the week, the seconds spinning
as I swing from tears to laughter, only gaining silence

until, with a fatherly hand, he stands behind me
holds my shoulders, conjures a reception party
and simply asks the spirit to leave.
There is the moment made fantastic as the energy

subsides. I breathe again with friends, grateful
for this man’s belief. He was a spitfire pilot
and has lost many friends, somehow he seems
to know what to do with demons.

© Steve Walter, 1997
Kent and Sussex Poetry Society, Poetry Folio 52, 1998

The Laying of Hands