IF THE ROMANS

Antonio Ciseri (1821–91), “Ecce Homo”
Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Knowing it was God they killed
What great money to be made,
Selling tickets, sausage grilled
Crucifixion amply paid

Chairs in semicircles set,
Golgotha an amphitheater,
Time of death a bookie’s bet:
End of story sooner, later

They would have too if they had known
That Jesus was no ordinary
Man—He was the star attraction—
God Himself, divinity

They would have advertised as well—
Imagine all the seats they’d sell


 

WHAT WILL HAPPEN THEN?

Alessandro Bruschetti (1910–80), “Fascist Synthesis”
Wolfsonian–Florida International University, Miami Beach
Courtesy Hidden Cause, Visible Effects

The powerful decide:
Republics of the poor
Are not to be endured

A proto-fascist said
All is for the state
And nothing to debate

To dominate forever
Is the freedom
Of the clever

Dominion of the loveless
And of the heartless
Above the artless

Through an opening
This is what I saw
Replacements of the law:

The ranks of a parade
Stretched along the Mall
An overturn forestalled

A leader looking down
His forces armed, at ease
Authority just seized

The issue: life and death
A fiery address
And they in battle dress

A struggle just completed
The passion of a speech
And none beyond his reach

Yet I see no more
The opening contracts
Although there will be war

What will happen then?
Desolation, fire
Ruin or empire


 

TAKE THE KEY

Justin Metz, for New York Magazine
(1) Fireball from 10-kiloton nuclear explosion in Times Square. (2) Shock waves. (3). Initial burst of radiation. (4) Wind storm..

In evidence I heard one say
How it could happen, in what way,
How a van is left to run
Until delivery is done
Because the driver carries money
Wants to drive off in a hurry—
Simple, disengage the brake
The key is there, the van to take

Thence from there along a street
Conspirators the van to meet,
Driven on another road
Where the weapon waits to load—
Three meters is sufficient length
Nor yield need be of excessive strength
Fifteen kilotons is ample
To throw the pillars of the temple

And then reflexive the response,
The burst need only happen once,
A salvo to begin, each side
And nowhere in the world to hide—
It could happen, every nation
Shattered by one provocation,
The end of every nation state
The weak destroying all the great

Impossible? You think it so?
The future dark, how do you know?
How to stop it, don’t you see?
Have the driver take the key


 

IF YOU WERE A VISITOR

If you were a visitor from your own century
I could take you with me to the middle 1950s
Could strap an army pack across your shoulders

In that pack, that very heavy pack, a nuclear device
Which you are assigned to carry to the East
To Karlshorst in the Zone of occupation

If war should come, to hump it overland
Supported by your two feet in your heavy boots
And there to detonate it—your name I will omit

What surprise awaits us in our own epoch
Even though the realms are strapped they hesitate
But others may not be exempt from urging

It might have been and may be yet—
Go forward now and see the shadows run
Across the mountain slopes of time ascending


 

THE GAMES

The Martyrdom of Saint Ignatius of Antioch
Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

See the world as Coliseum
Tiers of clouds around the sky,
Up or down the angels’ thumbs—
Emperor, who is to die?

Cramped inside a stone cockpit
Innocence and evil fight,
Holy fool and hypocrite
All within the line of sight

Down from heaven, up from hell,
Helmets or a naked head,
Some have faces visible
Others wear a mask of lead

Now the beasts of envy enter
Now the lions of conceit
Now the sacrificing martyrs
Ground between their teeth as wheat

(October 17 is the Feast of St. Ignatius of Antioch, Bishop and Martyr.)


 

FOR THE MARTYRS OF IRAQ AND SYRIA

As darker grows the day
The strong defeat the weak,
The unforgiving slay
The innocent and meek

Then who will read the psalms
That promise justice done?
The lion kills the lamb
The kingdom has not come

Hold the cup on high
Before you drink the wine,
Swear by those who die
That Jesus was divine

It is the blood of Him
The corpus of the flesh,
For now the light grows dim
In this dark wilderness

Swear by those who give
Their lives to verify
And also to forgive,
Swear by those who die


 

HOW TO SURVIVE THE FLOOD

“Noah’s Ark from the Inside”
Jigsaw Puzzle by Lionheart Designs

When Noah sailed over the mountain
The herring were nesting in trees,
The eagles were fishing for salmon
On the slopes of the Pyrenees

“We sailors have nothing to fear’
Said Noah the Bright to his Mrs.—
‘We must go to bed now my dear
To sleep over and not with the fishes

“The whitecaps will rock us to slumber
And the planks of the Ark are all tight,
Sailors must always remember
To keep up their appetite

“When everything round us is ocean
There’s never a shortage of fish,
And what if the deck is in motion—
It stirs up the sauce in the dish

“Always keep up a brave temper
Even when everything’s dim,
The rain won’t keep falling forever
And the fish won’t forget how to swim”

“But I’m not a fish’, said the Mrs.
“I haven’t a fin or a gill”—
But he gave her a net full of kisses
And put a big shrimp on the grill