You mean you haven't heard of the Godhead?
Said the angel, or fish, with incredulity.
Where have you been? Surely he's well-known?
Had I but known what a heathen you are,
I might have brought a few pamphlets along.
I can't pretend I haven't heard the name
Raised in prayer or curse, bandied about,
And used to justify any action
For which no better reason comes forth.
But I'd taken from this the fixed impression,
A mistaken attitude, I now see,
God was pretty much passive principle.
I thought God just stood as figurehead
For all that is, for this world as one,
Or, if not one, for this bucket of parts,
These mismatched bits from different kits.
I thought God just abstract concept,
Not someone with whom I might converse
Even indirectly, at one remove,
Through go-betweens of less than legal length.
All I know is that Godhead's spherical,
And not flat, as naive ancients believed.
Godhead is oblate, informed the angel,
Like those melons grown in California
And fattened for market on mountain waters,
The seeds everywhere, the rind nowhere.
Godhead is oblate and green and massive.
Godhead is stately, with a solid presence,
Quiet, reserved, but still good-natured,
Nigh unbeatable at pinochle.
But instruction on spiritual matters
Must wait until after my proposal,
The word of God, has been duly delivered.
Yes, I agreed, let's cut to the chase.
I fear, from this unorthodox approach,
That I'm about to see some kind of scam.
In return for certain considerations
Godhead offers you the awesome power
Of finding and catching a tonnage of fish
Of not less than thirty thousand metric
And not to exceed a hundred thousand.
Certain species, of course, may not be caught,
Some at night, some in summer or spring,
Some, endangered, unclean, not at all.
These restrictions, incidentally,
Are not subject to negotiation.
Godhead must respect fishing quotas
Imposed by the international conventions
And several multilateral treaties.
In addition you will receive the faculty
Of foreseeing future scenes and events,
And the title of Prophet of the Godhead,
Plus for twelve issues a paid subscription
To the periodical God's Hot Tips,
An in-house stockmarket newsletter
Used by most of the major pension funds
To build well-balanced portfolios.
Make yourself at home, friend fish, I said,
And please accept my profuse apologies
For this incomplete hospitality:
I have no pail into which to fling you,
And small as you are, you're larger than soup.
I accept your offer. I'm wealthy! I cried.
So be it, said the fish, so be it.
But you are certainly no negotiator.
The Godhead was prepared to go higher,
And just how high you'll never now know.
He is an experienced haggler from way back,
Honour-bound to lowball first offers.
Moreover, Jonah, you should've inquired
Before you agreed to these stated terms
Just what in return Godhead will ask.
The instruction on spiritual matters,
Fisherman, can commence now in earnest.
In Godhead's bargains never put trust,
Never rely on your apparent good luck
In any game that he happens to suggest.
Never, sucker, wager your fate with God
And never underestimate his skill,
For luck is such, and the Godhead is such,
No sooner have you placed your bet you know
That he has eye that narrows, whiskers that twitch,
Nostrils that cast for the glow of cold cash.
You know when you see his knees slightly bent,
Back straight, his head held high and steady,
It's far too late to check out exits.
From tonsure to toenail, nosetip to tail,
He is loose and relaxed, attuned to his goal.
You know when he chalks his custom-made cue,
When he angles his elbow down to table,
That an innocent demeanour has deceived you;
Divine modesty's necessarily false.
You will understand, as the cueball streaks,
God is a shark in tunafish clothing
And you can kiss your precious balls goodbye.
Liber Jonae Contents