Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Tuesday is Poetry Day

For free, two Biblically-themed poems by Jason Irwin. (Who can be seen this week in various Niagara-centered bookshops and classrooms reading from his Slipstream chapbook these coming days!)


The second time, the dove did not return.
Noah, clutching an olive branch
looked out across Ararat, as the evening’s sun
scraped the horizon.
Outside the ark,
God’s multitudinous zoology lay in heaps,
like the future enemies of David,
Solomon and Joshua.

Then, on the twenty-seventh day
of the second month,
in the six hundred and first year of his life,
Noah dipped his toes into the mud
and surveyed the wreckage:
Jackals and foxes entwined like brothers
with hyenas, wolves, rats,
jerboa and porcupines,
some on the backs, bloated;
paws outstretched toward heaven
as if struck down in the act of prayer.
Mules, one humped camels, pigs
and horses lay like rugs
alongside gasping fish, chickens, dogs,
men, women and children:
bodies twisted and broken,
turned to stone; faces painted
in a mask of horror, and in their eyes
one could still see the reflection of a wave.
While above in the sky, not an eagle,
falcon, or vulture circled, no
cormorant or crane, nothing in fact
could be found, not even a single ambassador
of the Raptorial order.
No pines, sycamores or locust trees,
no poplars, oaks, or shrubs.
No flowers of jasmine,
honeysuckle, tulips, or poppies.
No flax or frankincense.

Seeing all this, Noah,
along with his wife, his three sons
and his sons’ wives and those creatures
God chose to save, walked two by two
toward a grassy patch.
Noah built an altar
and choosing
from every clean animal and every clean bird,
lit a holocaust.
After this Noah planted a vineyard.
At harvest time he made wine.
Lying in his tent, his three sons found him
naked and drunk, boasting
of his endurance, his affinity with God
and the beauty of rainbows.


I was lying in the lap of a Canaanite woman,
caressing her breasts,
as she fed me figs and caviar.
I was bringing food to my blind father,
who turned into a bleating lamb.

My father was a bleating lamb, tied
to a wood pyre and my brother and I
stood on a plain of tall grass, watching.
I held his heel in my hand
and it burned like Heaven.

I was on my way to my uncle’s
to choose among his daughters
a wife. I was lying in the sand,
a stone for a pillow beneath my head.

I was lying in my father’s arms
as he told me about the time
when he was a boy and his father
took him into the desert.
My mother appeared, dressed
in designer jeans and gold bracelets.
She poured milk from a jar
and the milk turned to blood.
This is the blood of our people,
she said. This is your blood.

I was lying in my mother’s arms
and felt a burning inside me,
pushing upward from my loins.
I stood watching the place in the sand
where the blood spilled.

With a stone for a pillow, beneath my head,
I was lying in my boxers in the desert,
when I saw a man being swallowed
by the earth. Father, father, he called.
The child in your womb is our nation.

Everything was black like my soul.
I lay there, caressing my father’s head

as he told me how God saved him
from the fire. My mouth was full
of blood and sand. All I could feel
was the child within me, pushing.

Lying naked in the sand, I looked up
and saw a stairway. Its top,
lost in the pitch and clouds.
A light, like a million Egyptian suns
lit up the sky. Gargoyles slid up and down
the railing like mischievous children.

All around me a whirlwind raced
and I became a thorn tree.
My father was there, calling my brother
who, in his blindness, he thought
was me. My mother sat on the ground
in her designer jeans, weeping
over the jar of spilt milk.

I was a thorn tree with the child of God
in my womb, when I heard a voice
like the rush of water, come from the light.
I the Lord, spoke the voice. I felt it pound
in my chest like a parade drum, felt it grip like desire
or gas. I the Lord,
and I fell to my knees and shat.

1 comment:

sarcasmus said...

Damn, man. Those are some good poems.