Flies swarm an ass’s head
selling for thirty pieces of silver
in Samaria. Its eyes stare blankly upward
as whispered voices in the wind are heard:
When will this famine end?
Desert truths lie threadbare on the loom
for moths to eat, their abandoned skins shed
like old garments. Wretches satisfy hunger
grinding stone into lepers’ bread.
Sandy tombstones testify
against those who consume the ripe wheat,
spreading chaff over the cremains
of the poor. In the shroud of authority
priests shake cinder dust from their feet.
Then a message out of Gilead!
To Ahab, King of Israel, from the mad Tishbite:
You reposed trust in a priesthood sown with sterile seed
and tithed Zarepheth’s oil in God’s name.
The clouds shall hide their faces in spite
because you acknowledged not your shame.
Two measures of barley sold for a shekel
in Samaria’s gate. Who dares dissent
from lords that cause Jordan to run dry
and slake thirst with water drawn from the Dead Sea?
Who will enter their bathhouses filled with fresh figs
and call them to repent? Where are the seven thousand prophets
who have not practiced priestcraft, their mouths pure
of mammon’s wine, who are fed with manna
carried in ravens’ beak?
O Nineveh! See how high the hedge has grown
round the shining crematorium on the hill
radiating a form of godliness, a scorpion’s kiss.
We are drunkards who think themselves sober still.
How did it come to this?
A graveyard for Abraham’s children
cut from angels’ tongue, we craft coffins
for God’s mysteries. No more
hobby horses of fire! No more
chariots rising up on eagle’s wings!
We walk single file toward Assyria in mass lobotomy
of all that transpired prior to Nineteen Seventy.
Murmurs heard from Samaria’s wall:
Boil thy son so we may eat.
And so has the great and dreadful day come
at last Elijah? Will you return
to pour twelve barrels of water onto this
barrenness? Will faith
be made new by rolling waters that gush
from the rock altar of our heart
and spill forth holy fire to crush
the desert snake opening to swallow
our agency (or do they not know
water runs until dammed at the end of the row)?
His body claimed by the whirlwind.
What did he hear in the still small voice?
Listen at the end of the world to the oven speak
its final word aflame the stubble and forbidden fruit.
Shout it among the wicked, Ahaziah:
your father left neither branch nor root!
Do not worry: the dead do not murmur
heaven’s secrets. Elijah is gone.
His mantle has fallen to the ground and someone
must pick it up and bear it anew
to Carmel’s mount.