Do Not Harm The Oil And Wine
Mark Andrew Holmes
Arise, Lord Of The Cockroaches!
The sacred rats eat food at the table that has been prepared for them
And pest creeps like an irritable wretched invisible vapor across the ground
Striking one huddled, doomed one after another in the dirty, odorous Egypt of civilization
And they cry out and sweat in their fever and delirium (are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?)
And bleed from their noses and pores, defecating and urinating on themselves,
Streaming endless tears from their eyes--
Husks, burring in muffled agony and writhing like Tithonus--
And backhoes run round the clock in the potter's field
Where betrayal of the holy makes grass, nettles and dandelions fight to keep their footholds,
The sound of the engines and the crunching as the stony ground is broken, turned and shoveled goes on for seeming eons--
The engines of the dump trucks piled high with the corpses of hopes and dreams
Likewise never stop.
Who knows who is assigned the evil number?
Some hurry furtively by, fearing all but their affairs.
Some drag themselves, blind lepers, holding tin cups in their stumps.
Some battle, dirty, flown with insolence and wine.
Back and forth, back and forth, a busy procession filling the potholed, narrow streets, go the wheeled Charons.
Faceless, numb, impersonal men remove corpses from every rotted
--allegorically, Sodom and Egypt--
They are efficient, like robots; their activity is constant and nervous and seems to have always been there and to be eternal; they constantly pocket pennies
From dead people's eyes.
Flyblown garbage and offal, crawling with larvae, pallid, soft and sickly, buzzing,
Adds its flavor to the stench of charnel and rotted buildings already there--and--
To the south, where the poor live in cardboard boxes, and bathe in open sewers,
A roar begins to be heard, distant but slowly rising, unidentifiable, unmanning,
As an ominous roseate glow kindles on the horizon in the filthy darkness
And the gaudy and frantic prostitutes shout as one under the widely scattered functioning streetlights,
Cheerful, but not really happy at all,
Looking toward Polaris and seeing a cross--
"Let them eat cake!"--as the Thief's shadow falls upon them, in the darkness preceding dawn.
© 2001 by Mark Andrew Holmes.
For endnotes for this poem, click here.