Maybe it's just a miracle, she said,
The way God prefers things multiply,
Without the great shame of prior cause.
Perhaps an antipodal tribe exists,
A faroff race of breadloaves with legs
For whom the half-fish gene is recessive.
Think how mortified they'd be to find
Double-nippled minnows among their get,
Partly baked fry who can't swim a stroke.
Had you fewer brains they wouldn't rattle!
Breadloaves, you fool bird, don't have genes.
But what explains why one is sourdough,
One rye, one multigrain whole wheat?
Perhaps spontaneous generation,
She said, or perhaps intelligent design,
The actions by which God made barnacles
After seeing the need for something hideous
With which to encrust bare seaside rocks,
The finishing touch to a job well-done.
Our Lord abhors abomination;
Kindness compels he kill creatures he maims
Or sees at least they will not reproduce,
And prolong the pains that blight fine design
With throes they undergo to replicate.
Mortal minds too can't stand bad art,
And human critics are quick to find flaws,
Quick to mock a substandard creation.
I know the open scorn and frank disdain
With which naturalists view such life,
Miscegnates, mutants, fabulous beasts,
Life that if not already sterilized,
Already drained of sperm or robbed of egg,
Would beg for clean, eugenic scalpel strokes.
And I see myself in that same fashion,
With that same disgust, that same distaste.
Pity, Marguerite, monsters born human,
With human sentience and human eyes,
Partly above surface, partly below,
Who swell up with the air swallowed at ebb
And then bloat with fluid inhaled at flood.
Pity you, parrot? I don't think so.
Nor do I quite believe the tale you tell.
I see no sign of human warmth in you
Nor any trace of human ancestry
Behind the words you blurt across the room.
I can't believe any human mother
Gave birth to the thing that became you
And didn't turn thought to infanticide.
Never impugn my mother, Marguerite.
A warmer woman never walked the earth,
A real beauty in her day, and smart too,
A credit to her long-lived ancestors,
A race of stock promoters, goons and thieves.
She sold me rights to utilize her genes
Over which she held exclusive license,
At only ten percent the going rate,
And then she let me work the balance off
Doing chores after school, after dark,
Robbing neighbours of their antique jewels.
No, Marguerite, I was carried to term,
Encountered no abortifacient drugs,
Was born without undue interference,
Headfirst, then feet, then afterbirth.
I met no resistance, no reluctance,
Met no immediate hostility,
Neither dropped on head nor smothered in crib.
I wasn't exposed in snowstorms to die
Or kidnapped by fey folk, snatched at play
And put to work cursing, curdling the milk.
I wasn't a foundling taken in by beasts,
Wetnursed by wolves or fostered by apes
Who salvaged a basket found snagged in reeds
And reared the contents as one of their own,
Later to see it turn surly and mean.
My birth, which came without complication
Or signs that mark a child beloved of God,
Like the elephant ears that buddhas get
Or shrivelled balls revelators receive,
Brought forth an ordinary infant.
And though it then seemed unremarkable
All my parts and organs were quite human,
Not that anyone analyzed tissue
Or went to any lengths to verify
How far that conclusion might be pushed.
They gave my ass a whack to clear my throat,
Counted fingers and toes and washed their hands,
Then collected fees payable, in cash.
Oh, those were heady days, infancy,
The days before my head was stuffed with thought,
Days my self was made of small ambitions
And babble bubbling up, warm from the dream.
Talk was only a carefree pasttime
And not the current, compulsory labour,
Not drawn from future, not pushed from past,
Not amortized, not metered or clocked,
Not self-enslaved by quality control.
I talked but didn't judge a word I said;
They came as hearsay only, not truth.
I pronounced them dead without taking notes
As they fogged on air and then disappeared.
And those childish notions of mine, of course,
In retrospect are best left forgotten,
Best dismissed and suppressed and stricken out.
Liber Jonae Contents