We sat in the tent and you complained again of our condition, knowing what lies just out of reach. He speaks to me, not you and there is little you can do to hide your jealousy. I often wonder what might have happened if I had wiped the blood of the lamb from your lintel. It was you who watched the calf take shape and did nothing, seeing it a personal tribute, and ordained its fashion and for your sin we shall be together forgotten men in the land of Moab.
A millennium ago the army of the lord dressed in mail and rode proud steeds across barren lands, swords flashing in a red roasting sun washed in the blood of the infidels. They stopped for prayer blessing the bodies left along the dirt track left by their hooves, a common grave for common faces differing only in the color of skin and hair.
In this millennium the army of the lord slouches outside the mall rubbing hands against the chill, the bell bleating against the night, a barren moon reflects off the red kettle. As they locked the doors he pulled the flask from his hip pocket and thought of the bodies passing by, swerving to avoid him, and the forty dollars he would get would warm his frozen skin.
First Appeared in Lullwater Review, Vol. 9, No. 1, 1998. Reprinted in Legal Studies Forum, Vol. 29, No. 1, 2005.
Mark your doorpost with the blood of the lamb for this may be the night when God’s emissary arrives for the killing of the first born. Will he be a night bird half raven, half vulture or an aged man concealing his weapon in shabby robes.
Mark your doorpost and check it often for if your neighbor wipes the blood away, you will be visited and no amount of pleading will deter him from his task. There are no interim plagues remaining to buy you time, if he chooses to come tonight.
Put your ear against the window and listen for him. Will he come on cat’s paws or the rasp of lungs slowly drowning?. Will coins jangle in his pocket, to pay your fare to the ferryman?
But if you do not believe, perhaps he will forget to come.
First published in The Right to Depart, Plain View Press (2008)
What I most want to do now, locked in by something unseen, is to wander the streets of cities here, Europe, it hardly matters, and find statues whose plaques are worn away or gone missing, now nameless souls of once lesser fame meriting a bronze or of such ego as donating their own image to the town.
They are forgotten souls, often rightfully so no doubt, but even the forgotten deserve a name merit a history and higher purpose, and I would offer those, with Banksy-like labels, this old bearded man, now Ignatius Fatuus, best remembered for inventing the pyramidal bread pan, where each loaf is uniformly burned on top, and there Shoshanna Chesed, who pointed out that if we were created in God’s image, it is likely God is a woman given the planet’s gender distribution, before the zealots stone her for blasphemy, insuring their own ultimate, eventual ticket to hell.
But perhaps the virus will grow tired of us, mutate, and go after one of the myriads more intelligent species we have not yet foolishly or greedily rendered extinct.
First appeared in The Poet: A New World, Autumn 2020
God is fixed in the firmament seen as puppet master by some patrician uncle, small child endlessly shifting blocks in new, transitory universes. All things recede from a point, have since the creation and that point, dimensionless is God, vast and infinite. It swings lazily, back, forth a needle in its cusp tracing lines in the bed of sand in constant motion as we and earth, and all of our universe spin slowly around its focus, it swings lazily back, forth, tracing an ever-shifting path marked in displaced sand ponderous from its fine steel tendril which rises to a point without size, shape, or time, frozen a singularity from which all else emanates. God lives, bat-like on the ceiling of the San Francisco Science Museum and the Hayden Planetarium and countless other buildings given to science, omnipresent yet fixed dimensionless and infinite always a ladder’s climb just out of reach.
Christ and his disciples walk slowly through the lobby en route to the bar, discussing the evil of war and blind obedience. They push three tables together and slowly drain the pitchers of Bud draft, laughing over the sound of the Karaoke. As the evening draws itself into night, he boasts in Aramaic that he has translated more than half of the Bhagavat Gita, although he much prefers the Tibetan Book of the Dead. Satan, he suspects aloud, is still trying fruitlessly to finish Spinoza’s Ethics, but without improved understanding the old devil is doomed to failure. As the night draws on, the hooker hovers ever closer, and for a moment he wonders if she would moan as she feigned orgasm. He lights another Camel and crumples the empty pack and throws it, knowing it will miss the can and roll on the floor under the bar rail, and he curses in the ancient tongue.
Go into the hills an bring back logs, straight, peel the bark and smooth them satin fibers, the main pole at least eight arms the cross no less than six. Lash them well so they will not yield under the weight of the body where you might hang. Do not speak to the shepherd, he will tell tales of what he claims he has seen on the hill but he cannot be trusted and speaks of his dreams of centurions standing over the freshly dug graves.
First appeared in Rain Dog Review Vol. 1, No. 4 (1996) and later in Legal Studies Forum Vol 32, No. 1 (2008)
She wrapped him carefully in an old blanket and several sections of the Times and put him in the basket with the broken handle she found out behind the Safeway near the culvert that was home until the rains came. She placed him among the weeds and beer bottles, where the river’s smell licked the wicker, and she hoped he would be found quickly. She envisioned him at the right hand of Kings, holding forth on all manner of life and death, princes seeking his insight, hanging on his words. He would not be like others dying at the hand, whim of wealth. He was found a week later lodged against a grate at the intake of the power station and placed in a far corner of the city cemetery under a simple stone “Baby Doe.”