Penance For A Dime

Cleatus was a man who was without worth,
or so everyone who knew him claimed,
including the woman who gave him birth
and for whose grandfather he was named.

Gambling and drinking and lazy besides,
he had no merit whatsoever,
and whomsoever he crossed, woe betides
as he would forgive no one never.

Then one day Cleatus had a change of heart,
which is to say, his mean heart stopped dead,
and his mother put him in a mule cart
and took him to town to earn her bread.

“For a penny a hit,” she said aloud,
“I’ll let you get in your vengeful licks!”
There soon formed an eager, carnival crowd,
paying for a baker’s dozen kicks.

Men, women, children of every age
gathered together in giddy glee
as if to watch a famed play on stage
or hear words from a divinity.

The priest in the town held up his Bible,
quite ready to put a stop to it,
but then he remembered well the libel
Cleat had spread about the Jesuit.

Cleatus had said that the Catholic priest
made congress with a bullock each night
and then ate the beast at a pagan feast
with the Devil by Harvest moonlight.

The priest grimly offered a full dollar
and put on his thickest farming boots,
rolled up his sleeves, and loosened his collar,
and kicked Cleatus like the other brutes.

But a kick landed squarely in the chest,
literally kick-starting his heart,
reviving Cleatus, as if he was blessed
by Jesus Christ’s Lazarean art.

“What’s the meaning of all this?” Cleatus cried.
“I feel like I’ve been in a stampede!”
His mother tried to explain, but then sighed—
“Son, you’re more want than you are a need.”

His mother raised her heavy-threaded whip,
ready to beat him unto his death,
but Cleatus cried with a sputtering lip,
and compromised ere his final breath.

Nowadays Cleatus is almost worthless,
still living to lie and cheat and sin
but now the townsfolk can kick him mirthless,
paying his mother a dime for ten.

Ofuda

Sometimes I find myself wondering
if while angry spirits were thundering
in homes, rice paddies, or mines,
palaces, temples, or shrines
that when Priests sought to appease such ghosts
with paper talismans on torii posts
had they ever suffered a papercut
and, if so, I wonder also what
they would have considered that omen:
Good? Bad? Did they say, “Gomen,”
and clean the blood from the kanji slip,
or was it good to let the blood just drip
as an offering for any lurking oni
or a widower’s wife wanting alimony?

French Crowns

A harem for the King’s hearty vigor
was kept cloistered in his Versailles villa,
each woman tempting with a curvy figure,
their breasts and thighs white like vanilla.

Yet dissuaded was a lad’s lust to leap
as the servants brought thither food and wines,
for those women were the King’s to keep
and wore wigs to cover scarred hairlines.

Pockmarks fringed each merkin weave
and perfume covered the wanton stench—
Love, long ago, was a thing to grieve
if enjoined with a syphilitic siren wench.

Now see the King— goiter, caruncle, crown—
flanked by cankerous cherubim floating aloft,
and strutting, as a turkey, bald to his down
when his powdered wig was, in private, doffed.

Turkey and King thus unified, it is not a wonder
that Benjamin Franklin regarded fancy France
as the greatest of all countries, a telltale blunder
which invited the pox into his loose-buckled pants.

The “French Crown” spread across the globe,
as coins do, from purse to opening purse,
and with it, too, the manias of Love—each dropping robe
crowning men and women with a meteoric curse.

The Threefold Veil

The funeral bell knelled
and threefold widows wailed,
though whether because he’d thrice wed
or woeful for the dead
wherefore none could reward him Hell
for herself, none could tell.
The Will that he willed, thus,
’twas split with much of fuss
for he willed that they each
should live within each other’s reach,
the three in the same home
or not one would but roam.
‘Twas much ado among the three
to which they said, “Fiend, O thee!”
and yanked benighted lace
away from one another’s face,
showing tears, at last, when
flowing belike forever then,
though for beloved spouse
or his wealthy farmhouse
the executor could not say,
disturbed unto dismay.
The widows raked and clawed
and did unto as ’twas outlawed,
scarring miens most meanly
so veils were needed most keenly.
None received house or land,
but naught in either hand
save lace and flesh and blood
which they chewed, like the cud.
The gravediggers later that night
laid the dead man out by moonlight,
but grabbed the box by a lax grip
so it did thereby slip,
tumbling down with a plop
and opening wide with the drop.
There he sprawled, all ‘a grin,
having tricked his wives, once again.