GODS ONCE

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.

SHE HOPES

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.

GENESIS

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).

POSTDILUVIAN

So when Noah finally docks the ark
on Mt. Ararat, or wherever, how
does he decide which animals get off first?
And for that matter, the earth having
been flooded for weeks, just what
are they supposed to eat on new land?
For the vegetarians it must have been
very slim pickings, and who wants
a badly waterlogged salad anyway?
And with two of each only, what
did the carnivores actually eat?
If you stop and think about this
long enough you are left to wonder
just how many species were sacrificed
to God’s little tamper tantrum, and
let’s not mention how three sons
and mom and dad, the sole survivors
managed to repopulate the world.

WALKING

Walking on ice is easy, although
you must be careful not to slip
for the fall can be damaging, but
walking on water is impossible
unless you are not you, and he
has returned in your body
which we all find highly unlikely,
although the difference between
you is a simple state of matter.
The question, then, is do you
see any real difference
between the two of you
and if not, he may well smile
as you together disappear
into a thick cloud of steam.

KNOT WHAT YOU THINK

“Trying to explain the Old Testament is like trying to untie a series of Gordian Knots.” He said that often, and few argued with him. Whether they did not argue because they agreed, or simply wanted to avoid his unwillingness to cease pushing until the other or others conceded whatever point he was making hardly mattered. He knew nothing about the New Testament. He wasn’t even sure to what it was a Testament, though he could say that of the Old as well. It was just that one set of Gordian knots was enough, unless and until he could find his philosophical scissors, and God only knew where they had gone.

THOSE WHO CAN’T DO (OR TEACH)

“You know,” she said, “it is the critics,
they are the real problem, all holy
and self-proclaimed arbiters of taste,
deciding what is and is not art, as if
God spoke late one night and declared
to each one that he or she and only
he or she would determine what is art.”
I wanted to argue with her, but I
was standing in a gallery where
the signs requested silence, that
and I really had no argument
with what she said, for I knew
that taste was personal, that art
had no hard metrics, this is, this isn’t,
there is no ruler, no gauge, no scale.
Add to that the fact that I
truly love exotic mushrooms, morels,
enoki, the odder the better, and she
finds all fungus disgusting, belonging
in its earthly grave, and though wrong,
it is her taste after all, so there it is.