The faithful depart

You have given us like sheep for eating
And scattered us among the heathen.
Psalm 44

Out here, no stars for guidance
No hope for subsistence
The sky meets the open sea
Searching for a horizon

Out here, the wail of utter
Lack of direction
Of pointlessness
Seems absurdly redundant

Whatever happened
To the long ago gamble
That pushed us here
So vainly game?

The compass needle swings
Madly from one point
To the next, oblivious,
Wanton, unable, unwilling

And yet, we’re such dogs
As lap up the small gifts
We find on the wayside
Imagining meanings for them all

Our lips cannot form
The word “sever”
Our hearts cannot forgive
The love you bore us

Our souls cannot grasp
Your cruel mercy

This poem first appeared in this blog 12/7/14.  It was inspired by a passage from Gildas’ De Excidio et Conquestu Britannie, written in 540 CE. It describes the slaughter and deprivation of Britons at the hands of Saxons after the fall of the Western Roman Empire.  Ironically, the earlier barbarians had become Roman Britons, and now viewed the Saxon invaders with the same revulsion they had suffered at the hands of the Romans.

False idylls

Ah, we say, what a life!
and yet …

We are the heirs of discontent
we carry all colors among us
to their inevitable conclusion

Our eyes are rising swiftly
under an aging sun

What nourished our forebears
we find merely annoying
All those Bible Prophets mute
as sacks of sand

To build dikes against
a flood which never comes
and yet …

here we stand
precisely in their footpads

St. Augustine never graced my dreams

The writer, says the poet,
must only write
what must not be written.

Such are the quests
we pursue, Sancho-Panza-less,
weak despite our dreams

secret cowards pretending
to be secret heroes.
Who remembers, now,

all those wasted hours
dreaming springtimes
that never came, never left?

Who would want to repeat
such nonsense, who would
listen anyway?

Thousands of lives ago
they, too, believed to the core
of their death-bound souls,

incarnate but powerless,
amused but mirthless
amid those others

who seemed unshackled
but bore also
the scars of sentience.

Whole stories narrated
themselves, so complete
and unpierceable

that if they were not true
then nothing was.
And now, we’ve worn away

the so-convincing patina,
exposed the tin beneath
the blinding shine.

Into the teeth of it, then!
No use making a penance
of it. Allez-op!

Who writes poems, anyway,
but poets? Who reads them
but you?

Lazarus

And Martha said to Jesus,
‘So how long is this resurrection thing
good for?’
‘Hard to say,’ Jesus said.’
‘Why?’

Martha poured him
another glass of wine.

‘It’s just that he won’t stop
talking about it,
how he’s your favorite,
how you don’t raise just anyone
from the dead.’

Jesus drained his glass,
reached for the bottle.

‘I might be able to get him a job
in Cyprus.’

The plague

Survivors of the plague, finding themselves neither destroyed nor improved, could discover no divine purpose in the pain they had suffered. ~ Barbara Tuchman

Everything falls, the old banners
Flung to pieces,
God reveals himself a jester,
Indifferent or cruel,

It makes little difference.
Popes and paupers rot
In the same slag heap,
All the rules, shattered.

Such a holy tantrum!
Such abandonment
Not seen since the days
Of Sodom and Gomorrah.

Do you pray, beseeching
God for pity,
If justice cannot be found?
Take care you don’t disturb his temper!

No pretense any longer
Of value, of one thing
Over another, your doom
Is made by a foul divine whim.