The Demon Star: A Locket for Algol

By Elias Baez


…if you’re leaving home, switch on a new

four-pointed star, then, as you say adieu,

to light a vacant world with steady blaze,

and follow you forever with its gaze.

– “25.XII.1993”

by Joseph Brodsky

(trans. by Richard Wilbur)






Mandrake’s jar is jostling on the shelf

as he yells orders, lil fists pressing the glass

imprisoning him. He hates his diminution.

Mandrake is my pocket mini-magician;

I thank my lucky stars I’ve got his help.

Though if I forget to seal him in, he punches

poor Pony in the nose; he pinches my ass;

he duplicates my voice to harry Alex,

spewing ignoble gases at my love … !

That said, he promised me a Rolex, golden,

if I invent a sonnet locket for Algol,

the Demon Star, who blinks where God would stare.

It’s rising tonight, northwest of Baltimore.

I’ve spent the morning pestling black hellebore.






like freezing I              


                        bloom the absence


can’t come home


                        can’t text or call


winter bloom grow     


                        to break the heart frost


frost heart hears how 



III. face



I’ve spent the morning. Pestling black hellebore,

juicing wormwood, I feel like Lady Macbeth: 

nothing in me but vengeance designed. Payment.

Blood doesn’t spot my hands; it honeys my brain,

dripping down mirrors adream, bearfoot boarfoot – 

Mandrake, clapping, wakes me from the Lady.

He coos of pearl bubble baths to come.

Men said Algol’s unlucky cause it wavers,

and nothing spells death like a star bad to sailors.

It dims each third day for about ten hours.

Is that so demonic? They also call it Head

of Satan, Ogre, Gorgon… Jesus. What’d

Algol do to get this rep but flicker?

I thought absence makes the heart grow fonder.






            Mother, nothing


Algol’s ashamed


             looking like me


Nothing I


            the book,


your son  


            writing worth


a second winter





“He only needs a second to say goodbye.”

(Mandrake’s got my mother on the line.)

“Okay.” Call drops. To me, “She’s leaving soon.”

So it’s us and Mandrake now, and Alex, Pony – 

hellebore and wormwood sitting pretty

here in Algol’s locket. A poem’s beauty

is the star’s that watched the poem born,

and what the poet sacrificed to say it.

Algol’s really three stars whose orbits knot –

a bastard of the cosmic trinities.

Its blinking eye, dim as a sleepy child,

betrays its mother’s infidelities.

Algol’s waking. At 12, towers will crumble.

A germ, a generation, stirs in the rubble.


 VI. false bottom



the mandrake Father


            cruel lead weight


if They gave me


             license to be know


you for you


             to see it You’ll


I’ll be okay I 


            write because they’re


always hearing 


            me I’m writing


to be read to say


            only be know too


Elias Baez is a poet and journalist living in Baltimore. He has poems currently out in Mantis, The Bitchin Kitsch, and The Daily Drunk. He writes about culture for GAYLETTER magazine, based in New York.