Liber Jonae CAPUT NINE Page HE


I diagnose a mild interference;
Something is tickling that frequency,
The international noon time signal,
Mayday broadcast, air raid alert.
Or that last beacon, that rising wail
Heard after missiles launch overseas.
Don't fret much, though, it's a false alarm,
Triggered perhaps by a hair drier short
Somewhere nearby, maybe next door.
Note how ruffled up my feathers stand.
By false alarm I mean false at present,
One that's gone off a bit too early.
It's best to reset and go back to sleep.

What if I change the rabbit ears around?

Reception like this never quite heals.
Take a little tonic, a lot of gin.
The symptoms will suddenly fade away,
Will stay gone for awhile and then recur.
It's a common species of fungal disease
That attacks and eats young spark plug roots,
Haphazards their grasp on black, white and ground,
Disrupts logics, randomizes waves,
Unchannels streams and disorders senses.
It strikes without warning and comes in fits
Like aftereffects of gadfly bites,
Or of overelectrified nerve ends
That randomly fire off a lightning flash
To thus derange a schizophrenic's thought.
It's like dreams that come from opium pipes
To take centerstage and compel belief
But drift away when the drug wears off,
Or like French intellectual fashions
That seize a brain for days and then depart.
It's benign, I believe, but still a nuisance.
This set should go in for a tune-up.

It's been out of warranty for decades.
I'm afraid, she said, that they'd put it down.

But if so I'll console you throughout your grief,
Trot out wisdom, make the right noises,
The right platitudes in the right places,
Fondly reminisce to ease bereavement.
Remember the time we watched the commercial?
I'll whisper, as the tears stream down my beak.

All that seems so long ago now,
Just memory now, sighed Marguerite.

Here we go, I proclaimed. It's six o'clock.

Officials, said the television set,
Have today announced that contingency plans
For any end to our civilization
Are finalized at last and put in place.
Nineveh, they assure, is fully prepared.
Art treasures, gold ingots, vintage wines,
And fine foodstuffs have been hidden in vaults.
Multiple backup tapes have been compiled
Of the municipal tax and property rolls.
Bunkers for dignitaries have been readied,
With only room for the current head of state,
(May the Lord God cherish Quintus our King),
And his wealthy or powerful supporters,
Some of the more prominent socialites,
Along with their executive assistants,
Personal trainers and sexual partners.
They will, of course, be fully screened.
No children and no one on welfare
And no pets except seeing eye dogs.
No blind, deaf or handicapped people.
No hunchbacks or dwarves, and no lepers
With mutilated faces or missing limbs,
No one badly blemished, pock-spotted,
Or who itches with scabs or stammers words,
None of those few who somehow contrive
To break a toe or get testicles crushed.
No apes. And absolutely no birds.
High-level church leaders, bureaucrats,
And sports and media personalities
May be considered for spots if space permits.
Diesel generators are now installed,
Spas and racquetball courts now complete,
Catering contracts now put to tender.
Armed marines are stationed at each entrance
To turn away the curious and desperate,
Pickpockets, sneakthieves, papparazzi,
The poor, sick or lost, the confused or damned.
But why release this news? some have asked.
Some pundits see here a signal sent,
A veiled monetary forecast made
That present state policy can't avert
A profound and widespread increase in debt
That spells economic trouble ahead.
Civilization's end, warn experts,
Is widely thought not positive at all
By those who manage major pension funds.
Should civic activity slow down or halt
Or even worse, shift gears and back up,
A stock market downturn might result.
If Nineveh falls, they'll say off-record,
We'll see share prices take a sharp dip
For those firms that manufacture plastic
Or dispense fast foods or mix concrete
Or transport by rail cellphone parts,
Wicker loveseats, ice capade tickets,
Bottled holy water in dozen packs,
Single servings of puffed rice breakfast,
Number nine headless galvanized nails,
Boxset editions of soft rock hits,
Aerosol bugspray ready for use.
Analysts feel safe in conclusions reached
After hearing the news and plotting charts.
Nineveh's plight is worse than ever thought.
The most pessimistic rumourmongers
Had not even conceived such an event,
And now, hearing it broached, are less than pleased,
Less than inclined to buy long-term bonds.
Look, they exclaim, at how yield curves go!
They claim to let civilization end
Is not the best or wisest course open,
Not an outcome that many will approve
No matter what the contingency plans.

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