Earlier the Lord told all who'd listen
To send faith to his Babylon address,
With cheques made out to his Marduk name,
Under which, then, he still did business.
And all paid him heed and paid it for years.
But this, it turned out, was only a trick,
Done to see if believers really would,
To see just how deep his hook was set.
It's his Nineveh location God prefers.
It's Nineveh where his tribute should go.
That can happen, she said, with afterthoughts,
With revelations made in two stages.
But tell me this, since you know God well:
I thought that the Lord dislikes idolatry,
And isn't a temple, a thing, an idol?
The priests, whenever asked, dodge the question.
Let's hear, bird, a prophet's expertise.
It's true, of course, that all that is, is God,
And that includes idols that pagans make
From wood or stone or even purest gold,
That most God-heavy of all substance,
Easy to melt down, easily re-worked.
And yet it's widely agreed that these are false
Despite the one truth that rages inside;
They limit too much a Godhead's breadth
And even worse they give wrong impressions,
Depict the all with rudely done features,
With horse's snouts or ears hares would envy,
Eyelashes stolid oxen often sport,
A bushy lion's mane, probably fake,
A goat's moustache that looks as if it's made
Of brushes off a rug-scrubbing machine.
The artists try, it's true, to get it right,
But each new face-lift the idols receive
Still falls far short of doing justice
To how the all, if much smaller, would look.
But that won't stop the work worship does
To try to make false idols seem true,
And Nineveh's Temple has them all, piled:
Enlil, Assur, Yahweh, Allah on top,
A phylogeny recapitulated,
A totem pole that's poking up through time
And stacking a new head for each stratum,
Like meatballs strung on a shish kebab.
Nineveh's Temple collects the whole set,
With each new face more vague than the last
Until all features vanish, go blank,
And only absolute idol remains.
It's true too that all that is, is idol,
For all that is, is seamless, reversible,
A Klein Bottle surface, half-empty, half-full,
A coat that both idol and God can wear,
Although its drape better suits the idol
Who runways fashion with greater panache.
And here is where the Ninevites excel,
Acknowledged past masters of all that's crass,
Of all the style that lasts less than a week,
That touches tongue and just evaporates.
Here they dispense with in and stick with out.
They pick taste on whim, then let it drop,
Trim off fat and toss lean meat out,
Buy before rise and sell before fall.
They take from peers whatever's loosely gripped,
Hold it awhile and then cart it to dumps.
Yet even here, here where depths are spurned
And tractors make haste to grade all fill,
Even here distribution's uneven,
With shallow spots that slope shallower still,
Some shoals so shallow they clear the tide
And mock horizons with sheer lack of worth.
The Ninevites chose just such a spot
On which to build their highest ziggurat,
A neighbourhood so turned to urban waste
That thrifty priests could pay bottom dollar
To sink foundations in oil-soaked soil.
It's that or God drove out infidels
And tore down their housing for parking stalls
So that his chosen were not forced to walk,
Unlike prophets he thought later to send.
And thus it is that all routes that approach
The lot on which Godhead's Temple stands
Take you through the town's industrial zone.
Liber Jonae Contents