Liber Jonae CAPUT SIX Page MEM


A Nineveh audience likes it like that.
Catharse them hard: they'll just lap it up.

But how approach the point I want to make?
Scriptural text is often used, I knew,
To set the tone and introduce the theme
For harangues that, with luck, last all day,
Well into the early evening hours.
And I'd seen myself how this was done,
From pews made of uncompromising wood.
I'd seen God wrung out, drop at a time,
From some innocuous scriptural phrasing.
And so I cried to skies, Is this not
The great Babylon I have built to house
My kingdom due to might of my dominion
And on behalf the honour of my majesty?

Immediately some heckler replied
You've gone wrong, man, taken a bad turn,
Didn't you see signs? This is Nineveh.
Get back on the freeway, take a right,
Drive back forty leagues the way you came
Until you see the carpet superstore.
Next twenty exits are to Babylon.

As I prepared my rejoinder to this jerk
A man stood up and began to jabber,
To expostulate and roll up his eyes
While delivering incoherent address.
I said to those who shared with me the stage,
What the hell is this newest outrage?

Glossalia, said a woman. He's enthused,
Overcome by gases God blows out,
Exhalations that drift down from heaven,
Insistent, vocabulary-laden vapours
Still encrypted, packed up in nonsense,
Because nothing divine's ever easy
Or ever comes without some defect
That postpones a public understanding.
He's speaking in tongues, a common problem,
For it happens all the time around here
When religious fervour overpowers sense.
Now someone just as fervid will stand
And will translate back whatever it is
The holy spirit has induced him to say.

Indeed, one from the congregation stood
And said, He says he's an Italian sailor.
He's terribly sorry to interrupt
But he wonders if anyone here knows
A quiet bar where men can meet ladies.

Send him to Ernie's! the heckler yelled out.

Send him to Ernie's! the audience agreed.

I cried out to skies, Eschew harlot love...

What's this eschew? said the heckler. Eschew?

And someone else shout, Gesundheit!

And still another heckler rose to feet
And said, He says that he's a German sailor...

I hadn't yet found the patience and poise
That communication of God's will required
If crowds composed of hostile infidels
Seek with spite to defeat recitation
In taunts, boos and loud derisive laughter.
A seasoned pro keeps rejoinders ready,
Putdowns he's used a dozen times before
To help regain control if crowds resist.
He'll have honed skills on many platforms:
Labour rallies, campaign trail hustings,
Wedding banquets and pancake breakfasts,
Vaudeville, tent meetings, medicine shows,
Professional development seminars
And those free introductory lectures
With poorly done powerpoint slideshows
In case the suckers decide to take notes.
But I had no quips or putdowns at hand.
Enough! I screamed. Shut up, you assholes!
And I recited without further ado:
How much time is left to change your ways?
September, month nine, hath thirty days,
And thirty days hath the Ninevites yet
For Godhead's terms are thirty days net.

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