Liber Jonae



A long and boring trip of many leagues
Is interposed between the sea and town,
Between God's articulated commands
And those proposed mental reenactments,
Between my former life and future work.
And since heaven won't pay off prophets
Until jobs are done and doom delivered,
I lacked the funds to hire a taxicab
Or book lower berth in a sleeping car.
God's per diem travel expense, in fact,
Didn't even cover the fare for coach
Or even costs to ship myself as freight.
Where, I asked God, is that private jet,
That winged steed, that bug-bit burak,
That transports your agents on high through night
And brings them nigh to where glory has gushed?
Where is that cruise ship that steams for seas
Your constant sun has warmed and clarified,
Where your fish achieve their maximum growth?
Whence did your dysfunctional motorpool
Dispatch the chauffeur-driven limousine
In which I had hoped to stretch out relaxed,
The minibar near, to review my notes?
Didn't I stand for days beside the curb,
My legs aching, my back stiff with delay,
My bag lunch gone in the first half hour,
But saw no bus pass, much less stop?

God's requisitions often get lost
Jumping gaps between inbox and out.
Don't take things, she advised, personally.

Persons perforce will take the things they take,
And they take a few, in no other way.
The Lord didn't even move to provide
A bicycle that wasn't badly bent
Or missing a wheel, or locked up, or watched,
Not even a kid dragging his wagon,
Who'd let me add my weight to that of toys,
Who'd wedge me in among his building blocks,
His plastic assault rifles, his stuffed bears,
Not even a pickup hauling pigs
To clatter down roads with coughs of exhaust,
Driven by some sun-addled old hick
Who shouldn't mind if I'd climb up behind
To swap outrage with hollow-eyed swine.

I'm sure, she said, vehicles that weren't your's
Were there in legions, going on for leagues,
Each making its way to, leaving from,
Or standing idle in mall parking lots.

It's due to these and all the other forms
Of that benign neglect that governs planes
That peeved human attention must transect
I found myself compelled to go on foot.
It's due to all cars that went elsewhere
And all destinations that were not mine
I found myself dismounted and made to march.
It's due to vacuums that drew forth gales
And basins that drained rains from cliffs and slopes
And due to that gaze that raised plateaus,
And then quit judging, just left them there,
That I found myself dismounted, made to march
All the way to the waiting Ninevites
Through waste that's gripped by suffocating heat.
Each new step provoked a breathless curse
On angels and fish, freeways and blisters,
On fools in cars who passed in steady streams,
Who spoke on cellphones, took sips from beers,
But never thought to pull over and stop.
Not one took this opportunity
To offer God's hand-picked envoy
An air-conditioned lift down to the place
That so required a prompt intervention.

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