Liber Jonae



The growing multitude of acolytes
Began to tax my patience past the point
Neck tendons could untense or jaws unclench
Or headaches might cease to squeeze my brain.
The carefree devotion and boundless joy
That these sheep betrayed in moans and bleats
Left me with irritated, itching skin.
Their glad noises red-lined stress levels,
Made my scalp flesh creep forward and crawl
As if to unseat a loathsome thing there,
A flea perhaps or the sure-footed louse.
Happy hymns grabbed and clamped cramped muscles
Along my spine, around my hot bowels.
Sounds of thanksgiving brought backspasms.
Disciples like these pose a health risk
For one already sick, for one beset
By pre-existent medical conditions.
One should not teach if already ailing
Nor should one preach if one like myself,
One untrained in self-tranquilization,
One unsedated by strong narcotic,
One unprepared, unmedicated,
Unpickled, unstupefied by drink.
To see them in outfit grated my nerves.
To see sackcloth skirts, sackcloth slacks,
And sackcloth bandannas raised hackles,
Raised blood pressure, triggered facial ticks,
And acid-etched my ulcerated stomach
Until the searing pains bent me double.

Undercooked locusts could do that too.

Eating locusts wasn't the cause, Marguerite.
I've never eaten one myself, of course.
It's not healthy to live on one dish only,
As the prophet Mankanaka found out.

Mankanaka? I don't know that name.
That's one of the minor prophets, I'd guess.

The prophet Mankanaka was a locust,
Sent to lead his people into Egypt.
First, though, his swarm wandered wilderness.
They criss-crossed the desert for forty years,
Which is why, in fact, that land first failed,
Why the Sinai, once land of plenty,
Once paradise, has now become waste.
Mankanaka's locusts consumed it all.
That land that once sheltered the vast herds
Of giant lizards and flying reptiles,
The vanished flocks of shaggy micro-bisons,
The now-extinct hosts of pygmy leopards,
That land was nibbled up by mandibles,
Snipped into billions of bite-sized bits.
The timbered hills, the flowering savannahs,
The lush swamps and jungles all are eaten,
Drawn down through those turbine intestines.
First they ate the game, all the wildlife,
Then went the trees, and then went the shrubs,
And then, at last, there remained just grass,
Only the rolling hills and plains of grass.
And this, of course, dismayed the famished tribes,
Who'd grown accustomed to a finer cuisine.
Mankanaka spake then to the swarms:
The holy, oh locusts, eat grass only.
A diet of grass shall transform the sage,
Confer a sleek physique but bulk muscles.
It gives strength and power to hindquarters
That stereoids promise but can't deliver.
All creation shall come to watch you hop!
This, however, met scepticism,
And Mankanaka, to show swarms the way,
Subsisted many months munching on grass,
Growing daily larger and more holy.

A locust prophet is preposterous, bird.

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