Witness

I have seen an owl
preaching to a crowd of meek mice,
their awe clutched in his crooked claws
as he told them of the salvation
existing in the sharp shape of his beak,
and when he ate one among them
I heard them praise him wildly,
their small paws clasped in thankful prayer
as they thought of the promised land
and ignored the pellets arrayed all around him
like a graveyard of fluff and bones.

I have seen a fiery fox
speaking to a beguiled rabbit
as if his sweet tone was a rub
for the tenderloin of her love,
telling her, with a cynic’s grin,
how he would love to have her for dinner,
and I saw her follow him into the dark throat
of his den
with an eager hop-hop-giggle-hop
and never a doubt or backward glance,
ignoring (as her heart was aflame with his
foxfire)
the corner where there sprawled
his expansive bed made of
cottontail wool.

I have seen a pack of wolves
making a leering compact
with a herd of dull-eyed deer,
vowing in coarse, serrated voices
that they would protect their numbers
against the fears of the forest
at the cost of only one fawn a day,
and I heard the deer agree
with widespread gratitude
that the proposal had a
generous symmetry
and that it
behooved them to
accept the sacrifice,
each one thinking
their luck would favor them
in the fateful lottery.

I have seen a magician
with a golden comb-over
and leaden words that groaned and creaked
in halting haughtiness
address a nation
with speech sparkling of
runic deceits, iconoclastic conceits,
and counterfeit emotions,
and, using his alchemic charisma,
he asked only that they cast their vote for him
so he could, quite selflessly,
work his wizardly powers
to turn their leaden lives into
bricks of gold.
He was neither Merlin nor Midas,
yet he enchanted them all
and used their willing bodies
as gilded bricks to build
his tyrant’s tower taller.

I have seen myself clearly
in the clean glass of a mirror
and I have told myself
with all of the absolute conviction
of Jesus ascending the cross
that I was not worth anything;
that I was ugly, stupid, my life
futile and born of dregs, like
pond scum on a putrid pool;
and
in the annihilating cannon
that was that eye of judgment,
I agreed.

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