For this curse, you need a liter of good grain liquor
and a heartful of unquenchable hate.
Keep the bottle corked, and spend a long, dry night
thinking of everything your rival has
that ought to be yours.
At dawn, roll up your trousers
and set off barefoot down an unmaintained
side road that dissolves into sand, then dead-ends
at the river. Walk upstream until you see
the swift skein of the water tangle and fray,
marking the snag
where the river dumps its garbage.
An almost spokeless bicycle wheel, an oil drum,
two traffic cones and the aluminum
bones of a beach chair have fetched up on this altar
of wet rock and weed. Wade in as close
as you can to make your own
The stream may be icy, but your stoked-up rage
will keep you warm as you unstop the bottle
and drink deep, wishing your rival
gone gone gone gone. Your curse will gain
strength with every swig.
Picture a heart attack;
picture a jittery mugger with a gun;
a missed stoplight and a truck; a sailboat
in a thunderstorm. When your head starts to swim,
take a final pull, then throw the bottle hard
onto the trash heap. A trail
of white lightning will
glitter for an instant like shards of glass across the air.
Wish once more. If your libation is accepted,
some misfortune will soon carry your rival away—
cast off, washed up, worn down— until nothing is left
but a slight catch in the river’s throat.