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

STREETCORNER PROPHESY

He stands on the corner, rocking back and forth. He has been here every day for as long as most can remember. He hasn’t bathed in some time, his clothes, once white are indeterminate shades of beige. Everything is worn thin. His beard has grown long, shaggy. His hair seems electric on his head. He wears sandals, their straps frayed. He always has the same worn book in his left hand. His right hand gesticulates as if leading some unseen orchestra.  As we approach he says, “the end is near, the end is near, the end is near.” We expect him to add “repent now” but he does not. We find this curious. We see the book he is holding is someone’s discarded Bible, his thumb in the pages. “The end is near,” he repeats.  I reach for the book which he hands me, and I turn the pages back to Genesis and hand him the book, smiling: “Now the end is a long way off,” and walk away.