If you think you have any talent, parrot,
You're very, very sadly mistaken.
If we could subtract that accusatory tone,
Your voice would have just the ethereal touch
That one seeks in a muse, my Marguerite.
I once sang for country and western bands
Before meeting Armand, but why, parrot,
Am I telling you? Just pick up speed.
And spare me the bullshit, the woman said.
Sing oh holy muse and lend me your voice.
I'll hum a few bars to get you started.
I could really use your husky contralto
If you've made no previous engagement,
A folk mass, say, or hip hop sonnet,
Drunken shouting match as one-act play,
Birdsong translated, loosely, to prose,
With Eskimo throat-clearing background,
Or some other equally worthy task
Commissioned and funded from the public purse.
If it's just not permissible, oh muse,
To stand offstage and feed me some lines,
Render whatever assistance you can
To motivate, organize and deploy
This untrained, undisciplined word rabble
Freshly risen from valleys choked with bones.
The cowards refuse to line up and march,
Not knowing where it is they must go,
How it is they'll get where they go
And why the hell go elsewhere at all.
This, I admit, will be one tough sell.
Infuse them, inspire them, fill them with resolve.
And do you listen? Is anyone there?
In the name of the Godhead, I conjure you.
Send me, muse, visions and visitations
To reveal the relevant concealed events
That my omniscient narrator requires,
And answer me, please, the following question:
How might I initiate my history
To expedite the delivery, the birth,
Of this monster, this bent, prophetic sport?
I know that you start in the story's middle
Because I read the book you co-authored,
How to Write the Modern Epic Poem
With Examples from the Current Bestsellers,
And that's where your own masterpiece starts,
And halfway along a sentence, in fact,
Either that or pages have gone missing.
Where, then, does the dead centre reside,
The balance point, the mean between extremes,
The place best suited to begin my tale?
Note that I start you off easily, muse,
So not to tire you out too early,
Not to exhaust finite resources
At the place where medium meets message,
Spirit meets letter, parrot meets muse,
Not to overtax your ectoplasm
With elaborate systems of table-taps
Punctuated by the odd, hollow groan.
I looked so good in ten gallon hats
Tight toreador pants, a bandolier,
And that standup bass just to my left,
I sometimes think I'll try it again.
Nineveh, surely, the navel of nature,
The pivot-point of the known universe,
The famous privileged frame of reference,
Resplendent gem, monad of monads,
The capitol and seat of the King of Kings,
Sits squarely in the centre of all tales,
Or all the tales, at least, worth a bother.
It's indeed the great city Nineveh
That acts as axis, the pin around which
All myths, all legends, all tales spin.
Are not the very heaven's stars above
Arranged to shed their spectral influence
On the fates and destinies of her citizens?
Is not the curve of the high hemisphere
Designed to focus all light on events
That transpire in her palaces and hovels?
Is it not in Nineveh that Godhead,
Whom we know from our various holy books
To speak only our city's dialect,
Stages all his divine interventions,
Right outside the Lord's downtown Temple?
Is not Nineveh the microcosm
In which the macrocosm's gross effects
Are finely reflected in the traffic jams,
Gridlocks and automotive stalemates
That block access to God's parking lots?
And please place ticket face up on dash,
The matter's beyond all possible doubt.
I will begin my epic history here,
In this city, heaven's chosen target.
And this is so much easier, muse,
Than I'd ever hoped, ever dared expect,
That I'm compelled to note the unpleasant fact
That this effort really doesn't need you.
Retreat sweetly into mute amusement,
Smile and nod and go elsewhere quickly.
Take off, oh muse, I'll do this myself.
Liber Jonae Contents