Today’s prayer shall be recited in silence, total, not even the breath indicating a longing for action. Nor will it invoke a holy spirit without us for it is we who we must inveigh to attain the desired actions for which we seek holy intervention, casting off free will, an accrediting poor decisions, a goat where we seek escape and atonement for the sins of all the others. Today’s prayer shall not be recited at all, but it is this prayer in which we find absolution.
Between Scylla and Charybdis they cower amidst the ruins fearful to look skyward lest they encourage the rains of hell.
Now and then they visit the corpses, hastily buried grief drowned by the sound of the laugh of the gunner peering down from the hills. It is always night for the soul and lookout must be kept for Charon, who rides silently along the rivers of blood, that flow through her streets.
In the great halls, far removed from the horror, self-professed wise men exchange maps lines randomly drawn, scythes slicing a people. They trade in lives as chattel, reaping a bitter harvest, praying there may only be but seven lean years.
They offer a sop to Cerberus, three villages straddling the river, but the army of the hills knows they will take that and more and waits patiently for the winter when the odor of sanctity no longer arises out of the city to assail their nostrils and Shadrach is no more than a ghost.
First Appeared in Living Poets (UK), Vol. 2, No. 1, 2000.
A millennium ago the army of the lord dressed in mail and rode proud steeds across barren lands, swords flashing in a red roasting sun washed in the blood of the infidels. They stopped for prayer blessing the bodies left along the dirt track left by their hooves, a common grave for common faces differing only in the color of skin and hair.
In this millennium the army of the lord slouches outside the mall rubbing hands against the chill, the bell bleating against the night, a barren moon reflects off the red kettle. As they locked the doors he pulled the flask from his hip pocket and thought of the bodies passing by, swerving to avoid him, and the forty dollars he would get would warm his frozen skin.
First Appeared in Lullwater Review, Vol. 9, No. 1, 1998. Reprinted in Legal Studies Forum, Vol. 29, No. 1, 2005.
The sun slowly climbs up onto the mountain’s minaret and announces the call to prayer. The waves in the quiet Lake dip their heads watching trees with the reverence reserved for morning. The loon sits on the altar and intones the sermon, the waves stilling for a moment, then ebbing into the day.
I spend considerable time thinking about what it is that I am, what is I, whether Descartes’ God or Spinoza’s could possibly exist, or must if I can have meaning beyond self-reflection, needing a godly mirror, and image reflected. Cogito, on what basis can I draw that conclusion what logical proof, carefully constructed will not fall under the weight of the axiom, cogito cogito but of what? Keys that spit words that fade under a misplaced finger, she caught in the web twisting, unable to pull free, staring at an approaching holiday of praying forgiveness Vidui, as though to posit God is to validate emotions, control impulses which leap synapses and flit and fade, I have sinned and transgressed I have violated laws and statutes and I beg forgiveness that I might live, this I, this cogito who has no external reference save God which makes all things real, all illusion. It is comforting knowing in death the soul is carried on, thought lingers, or does it cease such that I am not for I think not, yet why should I fear, for when it is done, I will not have been save as a reference point, a linchpin from which may hang ornaments of a life, a tidy sum.
We bow our heads and utter words not to the cicada speaking through a spring night or the beetle crawling slowly across the leaf searching for the edge. We bid the crow silent, the cat mewling his hunger and lust to crawl under a porch awaiting morning, the child to sleep. The stream flows slowly by, carrying a blade of grass and the early fallen leaf.
Fourth floor, Antwerp Hilton, night encasing the Schelde, ragout of boar and claret slowly regurgitating, I pause ancient words, stutteringly said, hand on my head a shoddy cover two parts of eight fully remembered one section only in part, turning East or a best guess. I ask nothing, or perhaps too much it is hard to know, CNN International offers no clue, no guidance, head bowed, knees bent the carpet has a burn hole, Ani, I am, I do hear I always hear, now rest and share my peace.
First Appeared in Oasis: A Literary Magazine, Vol. 6, No. 2, October-December 1997.
The old man peers at the yellowing book
then places it on the arm of the chair.
He gives the walker a sad, angry look,
and still struggling, looks up in mocking prayer.
Clutching the book, he limps to the table
and sinks onto the chair, risking a fall
that could reshatter his hip. Unable
to hear, he shouts to his wife, down the hall,
who brings the hearing aid and his glasses.
His eyes glow as the ancient words bring fire
to his voice, arms dance as though his class is
full of young minds that are his to inspire.
He settles into the chair, bent by age
and curses his body, now more a cage.
First published in The Right to Depart, Plain View Press (2008)