Surely it was not your fault, I said to him.
It was the Godhead who was failing to talk.
And why did the King punish you for this?
Those who do no work, except with words,
Expect results, compliance with commands.
Their own role malfunctions otherwise.
But it was my job to come up with text,
An informative policy directive,
Not an out-of-office autoreply.
Universal administrative rules
On matters of message dictate that,
In such cases, the messenger takes blame,
And my comrades here will attest to that.
We should never have retired our faithful apes
Despite their oracular shortcomings
And the frequent rages that overtake them,
A result only of their desire to please
And not from malice or a deep resentment
At the clownish outfits that the priesthood
Made them wear as workplace uniforms.
I see some still wear bellboy hats,
Some are uniformed like sea cadets,
And some, if I am not wrong, are Shriners.
Why did you try them out as Oracle,
Even if only as an experiment?
Were the cards so unsatisfactory?
Cards were becoming more unreliable
As a method of forecasting the future.
The very last tarot reading performed
Before instituting the ape trials
Was a highly frustrating exercise.
For one thing, it took sixty three weeks,
And for another, it was useless nonsense.
The length of time taken for the download
Was due to the extremely low bandwidth,
Card by card, just one card at a time,
And the troubling fact that the message itself
Was encoded as a large PostScript file
With embedded full colour photographs.
The first of the photographs to come through
Depicted a nude Queen Semiramis
Wrapped in the foul embrace of the Toad God.
They are potent portents indeed, I said,
That arrive decorated with centerfold.
Nude photos! Who is Semiramis?
A model? An actress? The girl next door?
A queen, you say? Miss Greater Nineveh?
You haven't heard of Nineveh's great Queen,
Who used her incredible beauty to find,
To seduce and then to discard her lovers
Once they had advanced her lofty ambitions?
She came to the attention of the King Ninus
When she helped him capture besieged Bactra
By some clever stratagem or another.
He was so intoxicated by her wit
And by her almost unnatural beauty
He executed her husband to get her.
And you could tell, even from a photograph,
How she might drive a man mad with desire,
For to any unassisted human vision
Our Queen Semiramis seemed so fine,
So fair, and so radiant a lady
That it was easy to overlook her soul,
Especially for the shallow courtiers,
The shifty, unscrupled politicians
And empty, superficial bureaucrats
Among whose circles she most often moved
After she came to Nineveh as its Queen.
But the second photograph to come through
Displayed the Queen's soul, an interior shot.
It wasn't a pretty sight, no indeed:
Hopelessly treacherous, utterly corrupt,
This was a soul destined for damnation,
For in the wavelengths of spiritual spectra
That only a prophet's mature insight,
Intelligence agency's dish antenna,
Or epileptic shaman's eye perceives,
In your ultraviolets and your infrareds,
Your radio, your X and your TV rays,
There is nothing occulted, nothing concealed.
And this is vision that belongs to heaven,
A vision rarely imparted to our kind,
But the Oracle possessed such viewpoint
And appeared not unwilling to share it.
Thus we were neither blinded nor misled
By the blatant sexual charms, but could see
That underneath skin-deep beauty lay
An unfathomable abyss of ugliness.
And here her liver and other organs swam,
Grinning like fat, black, malignant fishes
For which there existed in all Nineveh
No morsel of immoral vile too small
And no mountain of vicious sin too big
To be immediately, chomp, ingested,
Digested, and, swoosh, excreted as bile.
I tell you, Jonah, it would make you sick
To observe the Queen's internal organs,
Particularly the humble pancreas,
Normally the most delicate of eaters,
Devour such filth with such appetite
While there floated unmolested nearby
A nearly intact pork enchilada,
As safe here in these dangerous waters
As though it were wearing organ repellent.
Liber Jonae Contents