I see why the job of the Lord's prophet
Really is not a suitable position
For someone with your unorthodox pitch.

An alcoholic, he readily agreed,
Is highest state to which I now aspire.

What is that, I said, near your left foot?

Elijah bent, picked the object up,
And wiped off some of the roadside grime.
A roof tile, I think, a piece of rubble
That slid from some roof as supports collapsed.
There's thousands of these things lying around.

I thought it was, for one moment, a sign.

It might, he said, be both, both rooftile
And sign sent from God, a revelation.
And look, a little Zu's tattoed there,
Perhaps a signature or a trademark.

But what's a Zu? This mark is birdlike.

Zus, I think, are now extinct, wiped out,
An old foe of God that's seldom mentioned,
A mythic beast that's part man, part bird,
First cousin to the counter-wound satan
That still warbles in trees beyond the Zab.
The question is, if this indeed is sign,
To whom does the sign belong, you or me?
Signs are not telephone party lines
That make distinctive rings for each address.
Many are called, but only one is meant.
Prophets confront the question all the time,
For each new circumstance that pops up.
Why, they're always asking, was this revealed?
Though all phenomena exist as signs,
Few signify on one's own behalf.
Some are meant for lizards and some for djinn,
Some for small, subatomic Principals
That need guidance on which quanta to push.
Some are dead, inactive, and out of date,
And some are still pending, waiting their chance.
This sign, Jonah, is most likely old.
Just throw it away. Nineveh is near.

I hate to waste signs. I've seen so few.

Look, you can see Nineveh's ziggurats
Just visible above those treetops,
Each equipped with copper wrath deflectors
That catch the light the setting sun has cast.
And then, suddenly, his tone changed slightly.
I suppose, Jonah, like most prophets I know,
You would like to see the wicked world end.

Indeed. Worse things, far worse, could happen.
For instance, what if it just went on and on?
Any end to the world is to be preferred.

Well, my friend, You have come to the right place.
It's over there, behind those bushes.

But I could see the clubs of his confederates
Poised in the air up above the bushes,
And replied, that's the wrong end of the world.

But Elijah had already pinned my arms,
Saying, as he dragged me toward the bushes,
Where world ends, there end right and wrong.
In this world there is no end to the world
That doesn't involve loss, a lot of loss,
An endless world of loss, of sacrifice,
And whatever in the way of small change
You might have on your person at the time.

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