Had he not become a glorifier
I'd have delayed him in that fish belly
Until the day that all the dead are raised.
- Al-Qur'an, Surah As-Saffat.
Despite that constant force that tugs all,
That tries to drag a prophet off his perch
I'd found a point on which I chose to poise,
A shelf that gave me good view of the void.
Here I'd brace knees, dig heels and resist,
For despite all I'd suffered, I still stood.
Despite the tide I still clutched toehold
Above haphazardly stowed cargo,
Above musical instruments, wind chimes,
Stained glass lampshades, basketball hoops,
Rods and reels, firearms and hockey sticks,
Barbecues, camp stools and steamer trunks,
Ladders, weathervanes and gardening tools.
This was memory, doomed, disassembled,
And shuffled around to cut ties that bind,
Starved of that feed that lets it take root.
And these goods were accorded no vanities,
None you see in giant discount stores,
No glass showcases, no spotlights,
And no single product merchandising.
All were as driftwood, dropped aside aisles,
Displayed without order, without purpose.
Because the Lord abhors halogen bulbs
And track lighting's deemed abomination,
The interior decorator of the fish
Had specified that long fluorescent tubes,
Low in wattage, be fixtured overhead
To shed cool-white footcandles on wealth
An open maw had scooped up and swallowed
And stashed against a postponed redemption.
In this light my green case almost glowed,
And almost managed to emulate hues
Of the gemstones kept locked under glass
With rare coins, wristwatches, postage stamps
And all those goods best viewed from distance,
Goods easily stolen, easily fenced.
The pawnbroker, almost always present,
Was seated near the front behind his desk,
Barred windows on right, register on left,
Handguns hung up on a wall behind.
Sometimes, not often, he scowled my way.
He occupied his day with magazines
That taught goddess worship with photographs,
Ancient anecdotes and witless jokes.
From time to time his obese wife was heard
Moving around with thuds in other rooms,
Reverberating floors with heavy step,
Launching clumsy attacks on scraps of food
Rodents had overlooked or passed over.
His wife, it seemed, did not house the goddess,
Although ample enough to fit many,
But had, as house, fallen largely vacant.
Her slabbed flab, robbed of inner creatrix,
Imaged instead a universal glut.
And each day I observed the sullen thieves
Who stumbled in with boxes filled with goods
And stumbled out again with cash or drugs.
Others came by too, a few per day,
And stalked down the aisles like graverobbers,
Bargain hunters with no concern for past,
Etiologies or old ownerships
Or any memories whatsoever.
But none of these ever evinced desire
To hold me up to light with fingertips.
I saw the scorn that lifted mouth corners
And gave bent shape to sounds that came out.
Look, it's little more than an outline.
It's skeletal, just a cartoon parrot,
A scrawny caricature poorly drawn,
A young person's version, a laughingstock,
Not to be brought out abroad in public
Unless concealed from view by paper bag.
It lacks all the necessary features,
The remote wireless network connection,
The phone, internet and highspeed games,
The mouse and keyboard and camera flash,
The fax modem, the cigarette lighter,
Photocopy function, bubblegum dispenser,
Corkscrew, nailfile and hacksaw blade.
The colour clashes with lizardskin boots
And tailfeathers are too retro for words.
The style is too, shall we say, bombastic,
To put it all too, much too, briefly,
Too operatic, too overblown,
Too twiddled, too tweezed, too two bit
And much too much a Babylon thing,
Archaic, out of fashion, obsolete.
Liber Jonae Contents