So, said Marguerite. What can you tell me?
I didn't give voice to my first reply.
The truth was, sad to say, nothing much,
Nothing, that is, that I'd want to repeat.
I speak best to myself, sotto vocce.
Others rarely accept the truths I speak,
Rarely welcome the dread tidings I bring.
It's not easy to swallow prophecy,
And not just because a nasty future
Will always await us somewhere ahead.
Prophecy itself emits putrid fumes
Designed to drive off all foes of truth,
All those who, like King Oedipus,
Would rather look for their truth over here,
On well-lit, well-kempt picnic lawns
Than over there, in twilit charnel grounds
Where old corpses breed dreams and pestilence.
No one wants to know it's not the crimes,
It's coverups that draw the satans down,
The eyes you pluck and then stick back in.
A speech that foretells impending horror
Will demonstrate an adaptive strategy
Like those loathsome insects who survive
By imbuing otherwise tasty flesh
With a foul and unpalatable flavour
So that the birds are not enticed to eat.
They're like gamebeasts, ungulates mostly,
Who demonstrate unbecoming manners,
Who chew cud, who defecate in public,
Who will let fly derisive snorts and farts
Whenever asked to swear fealty to flags
Or file voluntary income tax.
And this they do so not to go tame,
So that they don't serve a greater power,
Suffer domestication and get penned up,
Herded and milked, then slaughtered and eaten.
But tricks, of course, are played to no avail;
They reckon not with human perversity
Or demands specialty restaurants make.
Do you hear, parrot? she said. I want talk!
Words that voice doom get little respect
From those for whom that doom is slated,
Little indeed but disbelief and scorn.
The damned take damnation with more grace
If they need not also bear the abuse
From the ever-present self-righteous nags,
Hyperactive seers, meddlesome saints,
Who never swerve from serving up truth
To evade their own richly deserved fates.
You've seen too, I'm sure, the deaths they meet,
Martyred and hanged with public looking on
Or found fallen in foul-smelling alleys,
Silent now, necks broken or throats slit:
Holy, yes, but insensitive to the end
To what welcome a sharp critique receives.
I'd do better to bob like a hen
And peck around at nonexistent specks,
Circumspect, with low profile clucking,
Than strut proud along the henhouse roof
And crow my warning words to hostile crowds.
Such cries lack any endearing trait
That might invite waves of grateful applause
To drown out that loud, metallic sound,
Whetstone scrape along axeblade bite.
Just my luck, said Marguerite. A dud.
A dud parrot, deader than a dodo.
My prophecies want only to feel sun,
A moment of warmth before winter cold,
And so they pursue the most prudent course,
One that defers a bit their own demise
Yet still indulges a self-expression.
They wish to avoid on one hand the fate
Of that now-extinct species of serpent
So venomous it dies of self-loathing,
And, on the other, claim no ambition
Of bringing forth beloved children's classics,
Read and re-read for year after year.
If it's deemed necessary they be kept,
Lawyer-advised documentary proof
That notice of demolition was duly sent,
Then enshrine them in index malorums
Out of reach of idle public regard.
Current regulations on foods and drugs
Forbid the display of a dubious fruit,
One that lacks the little adhesive tag
That with nihil obstat marks it safe to buy,
Lest they ease corruption of our young folk.
One may not tempt these innocent babes
By giving vile concoctions sugarcoats,
By cutting cocaine down with sucrose,
Or topping off malt scotch with soft drink.
Nor shall the law permit sly seducers
To work art anywhere near a school
Or near a paradisical playground.
They totter, these infants, on knife's edge;
With just one shove they'll dive delighted
Into those infernal pits, swim there,
Gleeful dolphins who sport in steaming filth.
Liber Jonae Contents