I am greatly encouraged, said Marguerite,
For I'm not fond of long introductions
Or imaginary interlocutions.
During the reign of the king Quintus the Great,
Monarch of Nineveh and Assyria,
A moment arrived, falling like shadow,
For Godhead to give consideration
To smashing flat this, his fairest city.
He'd done this before to other towns,
Other places he'd favoured for short times
Before finding one fault or another,
Before he'd start looking around for flaws.
A moment comes when he'll start to pick holes,
Start to notice loose threads, nicked veneers,
Fallacious logic and peeling paintjobs.
He'll criticize how the town's arranged,
The river too near, shopping too far,
Too little transit, too many whores.
Sages say this moment always comes,
A point in time when God's interest flags
And starts casting about for other sport.
And since demolition brings such joy,
And the chance to stomp sand castles level
Brings a satisfaction none can rival,
It's not clear just what held him back,
Caused him to send subtle rebukes instead,
Little hints that luck's gone on the move.
Standard practice, in fact, was say nothing
And give no clue of dissatisfaction
Until fatal blows made themselves felt.
What better joke than see victims reel,
Stagger like drunks struck down from behind,
Sucker punched when relaxed, when least prepared,
Without a clue to what hit them or why?
It's how the world, and God its maker, works.
But Nineveh, Marguerite, caught a break,
And it's this that keeps sages mystified.
Exactly when did this moment occur?
I'd heard, bird, nothing of it before now.
Many symptoms of divine displeasure
With carefree metropolitan lifestyles,
If that, in fact, was God's cause for complaint,
Began to erupt, rash-like, all over.
Tiny precursors of doom, small blips,
Some too small for naked eyes to see,
Began to eat away at normal life.
Statisticians were first to detect blight
From certain miniscule perturbations
In numbers tabulated over time.
Household incomes in correlation
With new liquor license applications,
Showed anomalous deviations from norms.
Traffic accidents between taxicabs
And left-handed bicycle couriers
Were a little more frequent per annum.
Parking meter vandalism was down,
Refigeration malfunctions were up.
Polydactylism became commonplace
Among the troops of tame, Oracle apes
Tethered to the temple's sandstone columns:
The priesthood's cautious enquiries revealed
Insurance premiums would not compensate
For the loss to institutional prestige.
Priests themselves, noting something amiss,
Began to grow wary, retired early,
Took pensions and took up other jobs.
And this, of course, would only feed unease
In worshipper and worshipee alike.
Hastily hired replacements made it worse
By flubbing prayers, reading wrong scriptures,
Singing funeral hymns at bridal feasts.
Even the pigeons meant for sacrifice
Began to fidget watching liturgy botched
And grew discontent with religious work.
They lost weight and shed feathers from worry
That badly aimed, less than deft knifestrokes
Might take off a leg, put out an eye,
Leave a poor bird still squirming in blood
Instead of rising on updrafts to God.
Liber Jonae Contents