Put out your eye then, parrot, she said.
Or fix it elsewhere, on heaven perhaps.
And what happened, come to think of it, bird,
To that other eye, that one that's gone?
I still had a pair then, Marguerite,
A healthy pair that still worked as a team
And ranged ahead scouting terrain for bricks
That might pose a hazard or harbour worms.
I can't see a building of any size
Without seeing the thing as pre-ruin,
As a heap of rubble waiting to happen.
Often ruins retain little structure
And will offer the observer nothing more
Than piles of the once-constituent bricks,
And each one of these bricks looks alike,
So that if you've inspected one brick
You have to a degree inspected them all,
And it's best therefore to pick a brick,
Any brick, a brick at random will do,
And give that brick one good hard stare.
What meanings can a standard brick impart?
No brick that runs loose, that creeps away
And seeks to make escape, was ever laid.
Take note, Marguerite, of bricks you see,
The ones scattered around on roads and walks,
Precursors to greater rubble to come.
They're all aligned along the exit routes,
Refugees that flee their appointed spots.
There's a brick missing here in each wall,
A gap that only your town's prophet sees,
The keyhole for which my message is key,
And placed to guarantee complete collapse.
Prophecy's quite simple, once it's explained.
Prophets see bricks and understand all.
It's little known but nonetheless true
That dimensions for a given building's brick,
Height, breadth and depth, are divinely ordained.
The mold is fashioned so each baked product
Will correspond to heaven's express wish,
Exact within a few microcubits.
If Inquisition agents ever find
A brick out of line, not true to square,
Too yellow or small or tall to conform,
They'll order whole walls torn down and smashed,
Though those walls may enclose their own homes,
Though fallen weight may pin kin beneath.
Even so, even with this obsession
That divine guidelines be strictly observed,
Inspectors never spot the fatal flaws
That vision like mine finds so glaring.
Perhaps, after Nineveh bites the dust,
They'll find, too late, new regulations.
Trial and error, scientific method,
Is always generating a better brick
After disaster unearths hidden law.
The ratio clay takes to straw, for instance,
Is precisely specified by heaven's plans,
Along with other data builders need,
The slopes of roofs and curvatures of domes,
How far apart two pillars should stand
And how many masons likely will fall
And meet death in workplace accidents.
And though much of this is but common sense
Or logic or tedious computation,
It takes pain to educate architects
To each new species of nasty surprise
That creation hides inside phenomena.
There's more to the brick than meets the eye.
And some numbers are learned by engineers
By splitting open a wasp nest in winter
To scry dreams that slept there clasped in cells
Or by picking through fruit and by counting seeds,
But secrets gained in these approved fashions
Don't guarantee successful projects.
The first Temple they tried to build, in fact,
Fell down because of badly made bricks,
Bricks with a bad clay-to-straw proportion.
But Godhead by law is never to blame,
Nor dreams he sends, architects he employs,
Fruit he grows, wasps he intoxicates.
The blueprints he reveals are sacrosanct,
Communications protected by privilege.
And it wasn't the fault of the brickmakers
Or so a later investigation found.
The principal contractor was cutting cost
And provided them with insufficient straw
While demanding the same number of bricks.
This finding was greeted with relieved smiles,
For many feared that brickworms were loose.
If so, it's not that Temple alone
But all of Nineveh that would stand condemned,
Stand awhile seeming still sound and whole
But all the same eaten away within.
And just as Godhead is indemnified,
Armoured in limited liability,
So too are his creatures, the brickworms.
Despite an appetite that seems perverse,
The worm is just a clay-eating machine,
A soulless bore that's born to produce holes,
Which leaves nothing to curse, nothing to sue.
Liber Jonae Contents