But what's this? I said. I've drawn a blank.
Someone's left a joker in this deck.
We use Assyrian cards, said the Mate.
In all Assyrian decks the blank card
Is primum mobile, master of all cards,
The royal, omnipotent trump of trumps.
It denotes Godhead, the world's ruler.
And I would drop that knife, if I were you.
All present, except you, are fully armed.
From where I hail the blank cards are jokers,
And I play by those rules. My ship, my game.
This, employees, is a false positive.
Are you a heretic? Is God a joker?
Clearly, they cried out, it's you alone
Whose unconvention has displeased the Lord
And whipped up a wrath from unsmiling depths.
They said this in unison, more or less,
As if all had rehearsed it behind my back.
Suspicion dawned. What had gone on here?
A foresight like mine should never fail,
Should never permit an unforeseen hand.
Had the decks, both card and ship, been stacked?
Or had I only misread the subtle signs,
Let an optimism misguide my sight?
Or, worse, had inoculations worn off
And left my mind completely future blind,
A falcon still primed to fly on the prey
Despite darkness that meant his hunt was done?
The crew then seized me and pinned my arm,
Took my knife and pushed me toward the rail.
They stopped only when a lookout screamed,
Saint Tiamat Dewormed! Look at that!
And a huge, familiar shape breached surface
A good ninety cubits off, leapt and dived,
Displayed itself before it plunged again
And sucked big sections of sky through the sea.
The monstrous splash showered us with currency.
Currency? said Marguerite. How odd!
Are not the seas composed of saltwater?
Currency. Almost entirely in fifties.
This was an effect of my double vision.
One eye saw water, the other cash.
On one hand we have ordinary seas,
And on the other the flood of banknotes
Which rose to submerge mighty Nineveh.
Nineveh, to my eye, said Marguerite,
Remains unliquidated, dry as dust.
Explain this, if you can, clever parrot.
It's written - I've read it written somewhere -
That I'll rise up on resurrection morn
To see a neighbour corpse cold on its slab,
A tag affixed to toe that reads "Jonah".
I'll say, but if that's Jonah, who am I?
A good question, she said, but what's the point?
Nineveh's much like her prophet, myself,
Except that I'm the one who swapped the tags
Between two cadavers that looked alike
Stretched out side by side down in the morgue.
That fails as explanation, she complained.
Try again. Where is the missing money?
Uncorrected, unassisted vision
Can fail to detect the full reach of murk
That has coiled itself around struggling forms,
But my gift allows a greater clarity.
I was changing shape, like one of the djinn,
And yet retained some solidity still.
Shapechangers cannot see solid shapes,
Not until they melt away, pass away,
Join the past perfected as puddled nouns.
Dyslexic archers with a moving target,
They speak not to but behind the other.
They cannot see shapes, only remember,
They cannot advance, only stand stricken.
Waves collapse, recede, forsake the shore,
The caress halts when its objective retreats,
When the satisfaction precedes the hunger,
When the reunion is a wound reopened.
Liber Jonae Contents