Through the belly of the midnight storm,
like Jonah in the wallowing whale,
the world remained all aswarm
with rain and wind and biting hail.
The downpour fell heavy as if thrumming
like a blacksmith’s hammer upon the sword
held in Christ’s mouth, his Second Coming
among thunder and lightning—a wrathful lord.
Trees thrashed about in terror-blind mobs
as if to uproot themselves from the earth and go,
and black clouds shrouded behemoth knobs
while the Dragon’s wings deafened all below.
And among the fraying thunderhead
there floated ever after the Reapers,
phantoms wandering from bed to bed—
bad dreams visiting peaceful sleepers.
Frogs and toads gather
upon the onyx highway,
squatting in oily rainfall
with their heads raised skyward
and their eyes bulging wide with
like kneeling believers
in ardent prayer.
They are a
Heaven’s Gate flock,
awaiting the Assumption
to come with
caught between two worlds
awaiting the rending
of swiftly approaching
from out of unheeding darkness
into unheeding darkness,
an elusive scrawl of
They thus beat stained, sinful swords
unto penitent plowshares,
wanting to live in peaceful accords
and promising in prayers
to share the bounty of their Lord
with kin and friend and neighbor
as milk-and-honey freely poured
as blood from a saber
so long as plow cut not too deep
the lands they sought to sow
that golden crop they wished to reap
to expose the bones below.
But however they tried to plant a grain
in the Promised Land’s womb
they harvested only the crop of Cain—
a crimson, bleeding bloom.
How sad that Christians,
for whom Christ bled,
should butter bullets
instead of bread.
In the center of the stage the silence broke
and thereupon the Devil, grinning, spoke:
“Lift your donkey-eared sire higher
and pile the crosses upon the pyre—
it is the Feast of Fools, the decadence
when insanity makes the most sense.
Too many plagues, too many prayers,
too many imbalances while God errs.
Cast the dice and dance a jig,
slit the throat of both pope and pig.
It is not heathenism, but Order—
atonement for chaos on the border
between right and wrong, sins and morals;
a contrast of curses and of chorales.
What good is that grave marked Tomorrow?
All that matters now is to drown the sorrow.
For we dance and make merry, knowing life
is but a baby dropped by a bumbling midwife.
So, if the world is nothing but stout sadness,
let us go to the drunken refuge of madness,
stubborn as a donkey in his destitution
and no crazier than a priest steeped in delusion.
See the father who lost to bleeding boils
the children he loved, his wife, the spoils
of a pious life now martyred to idiotic chance,
and so he joins his feet to a heathen dance.
See this small boy, prematurely grown a man
after his family died, leaving this orphan
at a young age and beset with the sores
that took them—give unto him wine and whores
and let him live while he may, today, anon,
for tomorrow will never come, like Canaan,
where the Promised Land’s happy shore
is lapped with blood, and nothing more,
for our lives are meted in thrifty measure
with much of pain and so little of pleasure.
And, so, this beldam—with her back broken
from years of fruitless toil—let her soak in
Dionysian necatar, easing the aches of her limbs
and the hurtful memories whose barbed stems
entwine her heart to prick and bleed—
let drink be her balm, barrels equal to need.
And let the nuns and monks leave their cloisters
and converge in congress, seeding pearls upon oysters,
for the End comes today, and tomorrow comes never
while Death sharpens his sickle blade to swing and sever
every life, ready as a seed ripened full to bloom
while planted in this filthy, diseased mass tomb.
So dance, while you can, and exhaust yourself well,
because Sleep will come, at the end of your tale,
and the earth will continue to orbit a ball of light
while adrift in a void of indifferent Eternal Night.”
Erasmus appeared onstage, where all could see him,
shrugging as he agreed: “Ad libitum—carpe diem.”
He was a theist obsessed with knowing whether God did exist,
toiling away in his tottering telescope tower
and gazing into cosmic mysteries, nebular mist—
from stars to microbes, studying hour after hour.
He could measure a planet’s circumference within an inch
using quantum math as a wizard weaves a magic spell
and diagramed the cogs, tightening with an electron wrench
the algorithms of existence, programming them without fail.
And he did such devilry because his beloved wife had died
from the frailty inborn into mortal things,
so he looked to disprove what he had always denied
and then unburden his grievances to the King of kings.
His tower had been built upon the crypt of his wife,
stacked brick by brick toward the vast-vaulted sky,
like a cyclopean cairn, a monument to their former life
and to his God, toward which he turned his lens-powered eye.
He gazed into the telescope, across billions of light-years,
calculating all that was and all that was past,
and, in so doing, finally penetrated the ancient spheres,
coming face to face with his God at long last.
It was a void of life, above being as it was below,
and the empty gulfs were as inert, silent, and still
as the buried body of his wife, whereby he had come to know
the loneliness of the depths, of the universe, and all anyone ever will.
There were no golden toilet seats
accommodating Christ in his tomb,
nor does the Golden Calf present her teats
to feed greed, nor is there enough room
where you can stack money bags high
as stepping stones with which to ascend
to the heights of the Heavenly sky
by wealth, or the merits of a stock dividend.
To earn the yield beyond the Gates
or to sell for the profit of the Saved—
in the afterlife the going rates
have no value and have thus caved
to the pettiness of the old rat race,
nor can your stock broker’s insight
save you from that marketplace
nor can insider trading set it right.
Take the private elevator up for a view
within your tallest namesake tower,
but the downturn’s plunge will still take you
at the closing bell of that final hour.