BELLY OF THE BEAST

From within the belly of the beast
Sheol is a placid place, removed
from the waves rattling the timbers,

silent of the cries of the men
berating their fate, uncertain
as to the cause of their discomfort.

Let Nineveh burn, lets its people
scatter to the streets, let the King
stare out at the destruction and wonder.

He should need no prophet, no seer,
no interpreter of dreams to know
why all about him lies in ruin.

Inside the belly of the beast
it is warm, and comforting,
a womb from which one

should have no desire to be
cast out upon the land, or to drown
in the swirling waters of the angry sea.

There is only the hunger in the bowels,
and the blackness of a thousand nights,
a blackness darker than the shade

of the tree, which withers in the heat,
of the waters which disappear
before quenching the endless thirst.

Within the belly of the beast
there is no sound, no voice
to draw forth thoughts, no dreams

to disrupt the sleep that will not come,
only the void and the silence
and the cries that echo off baleen walls.

Nineveh lies in ruin, Sodom a pillar
of salt, the walls of Jerusalem lie
a jumble of stones, the oil of the lamp

seeps into the arid ground, and only
the weed springs forth to mark
the graves of the forgetting people.


First Appeared in A Writer’s Choice, Vol. 2, No. 1, Spring 1999

OH, NOAH

It has rained for uncounted days on end
and we half expect one of our neighbors
to begin building an ark, so we look
through the falling drops for pets to line up

in double file ranks, seeking selection
for a journey they know must be coming.
Overhead, the dove sits in the maple
knowing his time to star will soon arrive

but unsure where there could possibly be
a Russian olive tree within flight range
but then, as the sewer drains overflow
he knows any branch will complete his work.

The sun finally appeared this morning
and the weatherman now predicts a drought.

MARC MY WORDS

You were born 128 years ago,
not a long time in the history of the planet
and a blink in the life of the universe
but two good lifetimes on the day
you came into the world, not knowing
what would become your place in it.
We celebrate you today, as we celebrated you
during your life, a rare feat for it
is usually one or the other, either
reason enough to have lived.
I still recall the great windows,
the larger-than-life paintings
that brought Moses into my age,
and I imagine you recalling the stories
you learned at the feet of your grandfather,
so I practice what I will tell my grandchildren
of the immense passion of the small museum
tucked away on a hill overlooking  Nice.

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.

BEGGAR’S TALE

I speak clearly, concisely
in an ancient, long forgotten
tongue that none understand.

I tell my tale, leaving out
nothing, a summoner
in a deaf world, whispering

of coins, pulled from
an empty pocket and cast
at your feet, soundless.

I point to signs, lettered
in my careful hand, without
meaning, cryptic to you

You urge me to trust
in your god even as
you deny me my own

who sits by the gate
wrapped in rags, waiting
to for rain to melt the pillar.

AT THE EDGE

He says we are getting to the point
where we can see almost to the edge
of the universe, see the moment
when all that we know was created,
see gravitational waves cast off
by the collision of neutron stars.
She says that is all well and good,
but why can’t he see that he was
supposed to pick up milk and bread
on the way home, and that they
have to be at the school this night
at seven to meet the teachers.
And, she adds, you do realize
that you neutron stars collided
when the first flowering plants
were appearing on Earth, so
in all likelihood, you can’t
even blame the snake for it all.

EVOLUTION

 

We arose from water,
crawled forth and inhabited the land
and claimed dominion
and the land appeared
to cede itself to us,
knowing better
and caring even less.
We return to the water
feel its pull
but immerse ourselves
only partially, willing
to risk only half drowning,
the land and air
usually silent, knowingly
laugh for they know
that a fish
out of water
eventually drowns
in a sea of air.