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

IF EINSTEIN WAS

If Einstein was correct
relatively speaking,
the arrow of time,
rusted in place, indomitable,
can be freed, torn
from its mooring
and set adrift
defying its natural
inclination.  

                        As the lights
of Seoul were engulfed
by a blanket of clouds
which in turn ebbed,
revealing a universe
spread out, and I settled
slowly into sleep,
Thursday faded into
dreams.

                    First sun sliced
through the interstices
of the shades as fog dissipated
from San Francisco Bay.
Like Jonah, having
atoned, I crawled
from the belly
of a great beast,
metallic Sheol, and stepped
into a Ninevah of glass
and steel, rubbing
eyes, rejecting day.
Stumbling the corridors
and down a ramp
I slid into my seat.
As gravity was again
defied, Thursday
unfolded, inviting but
having learned nothing
I faded into dreams.

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