The Answer to Eliot’s Question
To eat of the fruit
Knowing well the result –
The fatal transformation of my race,
To plunge the sacrificial blade
Into the young lad’s chest on Moriah,
To look back on those two cities
Doomed to fire and brimstone,
To dispatch Laius
And form an unholy union with her who gave me life,
To walk away from spouse and son.
To wager Drupati and my four brothers
A kingdom to win,
To destroy with my own hands the two fruits of my womb
In punishment of cowardly Jason,
To make a pact with Mephistophles
And bringing about the destruction of innocent Gretchen,
To avenge the shameful deed of Clytemnestra,
Without deference to the divine woe it will unleash,
To walk away from faith.
I dare disturb the universe.
The Passion of the Dragonfly
On a sunny summer’s day
I lay perched on a branch
Happily enjoying my peace,
My translucent wings are spread out;
My tail is extended behind me.
About to lift off again,
I feel the pressure on my wings.
I lift off,
But not of my own accord.
I am transported to who knows where,
My wings caught between
The vice-like grip of thumb and forefinger.
I am filled with dread.
I struggle, but it is futile.
I fear the worse.
Minutes later I feel myself lowered
Tail first into a black hole in the ground.
The entire length of my tail
Is submerged in this hole.
Only my upper body remains outside of it.
The summer’s heat is merciless;
The August sun shows me no pity –
I, a mere insect – expendable,
My wings still within
That vice-like grip of thumb and forefinger.
My wings are brought together behind me.
My tail remains in the hole in the ground.
My upper body is pulled backwards.
Wet mud is placed at the end of my wings
To keep them affixed to the ground.
My body is upright, but angled slightly backwards,
Wings behind me pasted to the ground with mud.
I wriggle my body, trying desperately
To move my wings – futile effort.
Behold! I feel a sensation,
As if things are crawling up my tail.
At first there is a tickling sensation,
As these things move up my tail
And up my body.
Then follow darts of excruciating pain,
Hundreds of these darts combined
With the crawling sensation
That now covers my entire body.
I want to scream,
But nature did not allow me sound
For the expression of pain, joy, sorrow.
My scream is silent,
And the more painful on account of this silence.
The pain is unbearable.
But I am unable to move.
I am impaled by pain,
As a thousand tiny creatures
Inject me with their venom,
I am impaled by some creature’s
Desire to inflict pain on the weak.
What would drive a creature
To subject another of god’s creation
To such suffering and torment?
What did I do to generate
Such hatred and utter disregard for life –
I know not this creature,
Have never seen this creature before,
Have done nothing to this creature’s loved ones
Or to those who call this creature, friend.
What would move a creature to such an act?
A new sensation – a wetness,
As some liquid is poured over me.
A strong smell of combustible substance.
A burning sensation.
A brightness – intense heat,
I go up in flames.
The hundreds of tiny creatures on my body
Go up in flames.
We all go up in flames,
I do not know you.
I have never seen or met you before.
What did I ever do to you?
Why this hatred of me?
Why subject me to this treatment, this torment?
What did I ever do to you?
“Because you are an Arab,
Because you are a Jew,
Because you are black,
Because you are white,
Because you are Mexican,
Because you are Asian,
Because you are weak,
Because you are disabled,
Because you are gay,
Because you are…”
So you hate me because of my essence,
You torment me because of my being,
You hurt me because I am?
You arrived all three
In moments of crisis –
You in the early morn,
And you and you
After the light had faded away.
Fortitude, decisiveness, and deliberateness
Preceded each appearance.
No introduction was necessary,
For, with my voice
You were already familiar.
Many a night
And in the wee hours of the morn
That close bond we formed
Exchanging silent looks
While humans and beasts
Gave themselves over to sleep.
“Loving Shepherd of Thy sheep
Keep Thy lambs
In safety keep…”
When the fire burned within
When at death’s door you lay –
You and you and you –
My bosom was your refuge.
Lying skin to skin,
Willing the transference
Of that burning plague
From you to me.
Meek and mild,
Look upon Thy little child…”
So, what did I do?
I showed you no mercy –
“Whimps need not apply.” –
Crushing you at Fisher’s game,
Ruthlessly dominating you at Jordan’s game,
All by design;
But you had your revenge.
It was what I expected.
The lesson was well-taught,
The lesson was well-learned.
Pride filled my heart
As I was crushed
In the school-yard
On that hot, summer’s day.
Whimps need not apply.
“…Pity my simplicity,
Suffer me to come to Thee.”
You with the hazel eyes,
You scare me.
I looked into those eyes
And had to look away
For they stared back, unshifting,
Into my very soul.
It was like staring into the abyss.
Didn’t mean to interrupt
Your listening of Tom Petty.
Walking to Mrs Robinson’s place
We play “What’s the Sound”.
With slightly protruding tongue
Moving in and out of pursed lips,
And gently rubbing the teddy bear
Against her cheek,
The little girl sat
As her head was shaved.
My father did the same to my sisters
To contain the sores.
“Nothing can Thy power withstand…”
Here comes Mr Perez,
Coming for that scallywag (scallawag)
Who scatters the meal with little hands
While sniffing gleefully,
Who refuses to exchange
The old, worn-out, decrepit Daddy
For a new one,
Who will respond to:
Dipsy Doo or Dipsy Dee?
But never to:
Sexy Wexy or Wexy Sexy?
That sweet, plaintive voice
That could melt the hardest of hearts
Responds to the question,
“Do you want two?”
What is that I see on your head?
My god! It’s bleeding!
There is a huge crack there!
Thumb-sucking comes to an abrupt end.
“None can pluck me from Thy hands.”
In the end,
Pinocchio did find his “Father”,
And Jiminy Cricket did find “Mr. Gepetto”.
In the end, you all
Saw the “Moon”
And knocked “it off with the funny stuff”.
And in the end,
You will all have gone through
The ritual of cigarette and beer.
But I look at these hands.
These hands that carried,
These hands that cared for,
These hands that comforted,
These hands that corrected
You and you and you,
Knowing that I could have done nothing
Were it not for the Eternal Hands.
“Keep my Lambs,
In safety keep.”
April 17, 2002