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

RETURN FROM NINEVAH

Jonah, what color
is the sun at dawn?
          Black as the night preceding it

Jonah, what is the odor
of spring?
          That of rotting rincinus

Jonah, what shall we say
to a crying baby?
          The gates of Ninevah will be open

Jonah, when God calls
how should we answer him?
          Call him sheol

Jonah, we are soon to die,
how shall we face it?
          Crawl into the belly of the beast

FOR THIS MOMENT

The sea is calm today
not the petulant child
thrashing at the harbor
leaving her stone tears
in the sands.
Perhaps it is the sun
stroking her dappled skin
or perhaps she is merely listening
to the whispers of clouds
sliding off into the horizon.
We don’t question the sea,
that is for Jonahs, and God
had trouble enough
with the original.
Even the angry sea
has something to say,
and some kings
are deaf to whispers.
Sitting on the beach
listening for the waves
that barely lap the sands
I know that this day
the sea will keep her secrets.