The Earthwalker

The tombstones arrayed in haphazard fashion
around the church, each headstone black with fungus,
as was the Madonna before whom the girl knelt in a passion
of prayer for her child not yet born among us.
A damp dew lay upon the grass that stained her knees
and the sky was overcast not unlike a vault in a crypt
and it refused to rain, or to shine, the distant trees
whispered in the hushed tones of judgment and gossip.
The church had existed for over two hundred years
and had been the place where many people came
to pray for hopes, and joys, and wrath, sorrows, and the fears
that are the natural heirlooms in Life’s two-faced game.
The stranger sat on the stone bench, not too far from her,
listening to her prayers, and the prayers through the centuries
which were like a bountiful crop whose yield from Summer
had not been harvested to serve in Winter’s ease.
The stranger wore a large trench coat, and a broad-rimmed hat,
and there seemed something odd about his figure and his airs
as he hunched over, watching the young mother while he sat:
so intent, so engaged in the girl’s desperate prayers.
Before she left, the young mother crossed herself again
and said three Hail Mary’s, her rosary clutched to her breast,
hoping the doctors were all wrong, that the child within
would bud and blossom, despite each ominous test.
The stranger, having heard all of her pleas, wove
the countless prayers of that church into her womb,
granting the child that untapped cornucopia trove
of lives and hopes and fears to help her bloom.
The sky remained overcast and neutral, the miracle seeded
without radiance, or thunder, or rain or birdsong,
for while she would be born, just as her mother pleaded,
she would be the heiress of neither good nor evil, nor right or wrong.
Her life would have joys and sorrows, love and loss,
and would be neither blessed nor cursed, but the same as all
who had come before her, offering their prayers to the cross
and hoping for reprieve, or being thankful, or answering the Call.
The stranger stood, then, and stretched his limbs of seven,
the trench coat cast aside and the angel wings spreading to fly—
though he could no longer fly to the luminous spheres of Heaven,
having been cast out eons ago as he gave to God a reply
so lukewarm as to his alliance that God raged and fumed
and smote him from Empyrean like a shooting star in fall
that struck the earth, a cast-out seed that therein bloomed,
granting to that desolate rock a lush, vibrant garden sprawl.
Neutral in the War of Heaven, and Neutral now upon the earth,
he could only grant the gift of Life, serving neither Heaven nor Hell,
being now the Earthwalker, the Waker, Janus, the Angel of Birth—
and whether he served good or evil, no one— not even God—could tell.

The Scapegoat’s Prayer

We are begotten
and burdened
by flesh,
its temptations thus befall us
and become us,
so let us shackle a lowly beast
unconfessed of sins
with the weighted words of our evils
and cast it out to Alini, to the
wanton wastelands of
arid responsibility, thus
providing us our innocence
so desperately craved
and thereby proving us
the lowly beast we would each other scapegoat. In make
and in meaning
we are what we would
in our steads
forfeit to condemnation. For we
were made in the image of our Maker
and likewise must divest ourselves
of our multitudinous sins,
hanging their blood-blackened thorns
upon the crown of the Goat,
of Lucifer, Satan, Azazel,
for he is the beast of burden that chews the
roughage of our hearts’ sins.
Hoofed and horned and
black-lipped with iniquity’s cud, whispering
in our ears, he is
the Goat, the Scapegoat,
consumed by the same duty that
Jesus knew.
Yes, imbue him, encumber him, and
cast him out,
for he carries in him
that which we begot upon the earth:
black deeds,
blacker thoughts,
blackest desires—let him eat the roughage
until only the human heart remains,
more bestial and lowly than any
truebred goat grazing
in the fallow vastness of
spiritus mundi.
Come! Cast out the overladen sacrifice
as did the Lord his firstborn son,
glutting within his angel’s heart
the sins of His making.
For He so loved Heaven
that He hurled forth His first son
to expunge the impurities therefrom;
the impurities of His own Creation
as we do our own.
Cast it out
as the Maker did us
from the Garden of Eden, our species
a great congregation of
scapegoats, too, and scapegoats that
cast out scapegoats, as we
cast out the Maker, in turn, God being
the scapegoat of our sins as well.
Lucifer, Eve, Adam, Christ, Man, God—
scapegoats unto scapegoats, a whole herd
of overburdened exiles, our unhappy Exodus
as natural as sin itself
in this flawed skein of flesh.
Come, partake in this ancient Pharmakon, for
from sins arise as a black plague
our communal heart, so drink fast the
remedy,
and relish the
poison,
relieving by stony pills
the Pharmakos;
the therapy without equal,
the ritual without rites,
the original opiate,
and opioid,
of the shameless masses
exiled by the sinfulness
of Nature’s perverse innocence.
May we eat well
of blame abloom
in this hoof-trammeled wilderness.

Prayer

What is prayer
but breath
at the back of a corpse,
playing in its hair,
caressing its indifferent skin,
and whispering sweet nothings
in its foul ears?
Would you kiss a corpse
as you court its forgiveness?
Listen—
prayer is wind
scented by rot
and the world is breathless
with the stench of it.
Next time you think to pray
to a god
or an angel
or a demon,
save your breath,
and save mine,
and say nothing at all.
You are attracting flies
with every futile word.
I will tell you what prayer is,
for it is many things,
and simultaneously it is nothing.
Prayer is a
hand-me-down doll
in a stillborn’s crib;
lifelessness cuddling
lifelessness.
Prayer is
an isle of corpses
floating in the Dead Sea—
aimlessly drifting, meaningless
in a land where Lazarus
remains entombed.
Prayer is a gale
in the sail of a ghost ship
following a dim star
already dead in the night sky.
Prayer is rain in a yard of ash
where fire once burned
and a house once stood;
it is the insurance policy signed
when the embers are cold
and the bank account is empty.
It is the ghost of a saint
on a postcard stained
with martini and lipstick and
cycling the dead letter circuit,
the addressee unable to
mark it “Return To Sender”.
Prayer is the security blanket
on your child’s bed;
it is
the nightlight
in the corner of the room
eclipsed by that terrible shadow
as a monster emerges
from within the closet
and gobbles your children up
while they sleep peacefully
and dream your religion’s dreams.
Prayer is the bookmark
on the last page of a biography
closed for the final time.
It is when you
stare down a tiger
with an empty chamber in your gun.
It is a message in a bottle
lost in the Mariana Trench
surrounded by sea slugs,
goggle-eyed fish, and
insensate invertebrates
idiotically mouthing bubbles
in imitation of your own words;
mouthing words of condolences
like gawking fish
drowning in open air.
Prayer is the backfire
and the exhaust fumes
of a jalopy finally starting
on the hundredth try,
the hour being too late
to get granny to the hospital.
At best
prayer is CO2 gas
feeding flowers
so they might grow beauty
in the graveyard;
beauty enough
to cover the ugliness of death.
Prayer is the
passive order
of execution
passed down by millions a day,
their hands clasped powerfully together
in devout, godlike
inaction.