At first it was a checkerboard of ponds neatly arrayed, reflecting the sun, the work of man, for God so rarely plays geometrician with creation, less often still using right angles. Soon enough green blades reach up through the shirred surface, random, reaching for a sun they can never touch. It is a field soon, the water pooling at the roots is lost in the emerald sea its waves now generated by the wind from the distant mountain. It is marigold yellow now, fading day by day to curry, the spikelet slowly letting go their grip on the grains that will soon lie on the bamboo mats, drinking the last of the sun they will know.
The night was ripped by the lightning, the thunder piercing our dreams, awakening us to the shadow’s play on the skylight shades. As I slip back into sleep the gods turn their backs and continue to argue well into morning.
When they asked him what did you do during the war he said “I just stood guard.” When they asked him where he said “A station, just a station, like most others, I just stood guard.” When they asked him did you see the trains carrying the bodies crammed into cattle cars he said “I saw many trains, it was just a station, but mostly I looked at the sky, wishing for the sun, but mostly it was gray and there was smoke from the chimneys.” When they asked him why did you wear the lightening bolts he said “I was a ski instructor but I broke my leg so I stood at the station, just a station like most others.” When they asked him did he know of the ovens he said “They made bread which we ate each night when there were no potatoes.” When they asked him about the Jews he said “I knew no Jews; there were none in the town where I stood guard at a station, just a station like most others.” When they asked him what he did after the war he said “I prayed, just prayed for my sins, sins like those of so many others.”
The once gods have been reduced
again to mere mortals
and find the change disquieting.
Just the other day I saw Hermes
meandering along Fifth Avenue
pausing to look at scarves in a window
of a store he never imagined.
Even the once great queen
finds herself behaving like
a love-struck teenager.
One who bred desire now works
as a hack writer for a card company,
a blow to his psyche more
than anyone can imagine.
Even the nameless one
has been seen working behind
the register at Walmart
thankful for the extra hours
as the holiday season approaches.
We no longer aspire to be gods,
it is too much work and there is
simply no payoff.
Faith is something, she says, that everyone has, it is just that some don’t recognize it, even while the coin is flipping through the air and the desired outcome is whispered in the mind. She believes that life is a joy, but that it is also heaven’s waiting room, and while there may be a trap door out, she knows where it is and can avoid it. She says she’s enjoying the show but this is just the opening act and it’s the headliner she came to see. He smiles, imaging his next life certain this is just one life in and eternal groundhog day of existence.
Cain slew Abel in a moment of anger, a crime of passion would be his defense today. We can only imagine what Isaac might have done to Ishmael, had Hagar not been sent off by Abraham, after all he was a child who saw the knife first hand and helped sacrifice the thicketed ram. Joseph tasted the pit at his brothers’ hands mourned by his father only to emerge and forgive. It is little wonder we Semites can’t get along, Jew and Jew, Israeli and Palestinian, we’ve been rehearsing this act for millennia.
First published in Children,Churches & Daddies vol. 141 (2004) and later in The Right To Depart (Plain View Press, 2008).