Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves.
i. The Care and Keeping of Scorpions
No matter how venomous, if a scorpion
breathes Sicily’s air,
it will die immediately. I imagine
holding one on a flattened palm,
approaching the island on a boat. How close
before it starts convulsing? The doorbell
rings. A man on the stoop, a woman
three steps behind. My wife, he says,
with a bow in her direction.
And did I know the Bible
predicted all the Horrors of the Modern
World? He clutches a worn copy
to his chest. His wife nods, face
blank. I’m sorry, I say, and shut the door.
Do you believe that shit? The Internet
says Sicily is full of scorpions. Euscorpius
sicanus under stones, in the cracks
and crevices of casas, villas. This book
is dated 1963. The waning days of Dick
and Jane, Spot and Puff, pass me an ashtray,
dear. Be not afraid. Scorpius survives, crawls
across the southern sky, picks up airborne
vibrations, locates prey, feeds on its own kind.
Blessed are the clinically detached.
ii. He Said: Walk with Me
I work in space. A great pickup line
if there ever was one. My girlfriend
checks out copyrights, credits for TV
biographies. Her makeup is flawless, menthol
jelly on her lips and eyelids. We smear
into each other. Send Lazurus,
that he may dip the tip of his finger in water
and cool my tongue. Tremendous heat
resideth in heavenly bodies. Stars form, evolve,
explode. I pick over the wreckage,
cool down Mars with the doves of Venus. Praise
empties from church windows. A woman
idles by the curb, picking up
Amens, Blessed Be’s, faith, hope and love
like pennies pitched in the dust. On her lap,
the black Gideon stolen from a hotel drawer.
You’re standing at the edge of your skin,
I know, but I will do nothing for that woman but
chronicle her obsessive
behavior. Leave her there, gambling
on God, God knows her mother
tried. Think of her as an amuse-bouche.
The air thins on the rise up,
and there are limits on how much I can carry.
iii. The Gospel Chicken House
God’s light shines on the chicken house,
the sunflowers out back, sacks
pulled over their heads, twist-tied
to keep the birds from feeding. Fifteen hundred
nights and counting, God’s right here
in the chicken house with us. Animals drop
when they drop. The woman belts out her song,
goes where roses never fade, and all God’s
people say Amen. The spangles on her jacket
like diamonds in the light. The deer hits
the fence running, busts the top board
with its chest. Welcome to Saturday Night Live
at the chicken house. Have a hotdog.
Sarah makes the pies. God holds the thread
of life. Can’t you feel the tug? Forty by one
hundred, we can seat three fifty. Listen
for the “alter” call. Canada geese
just passing through, a swarm of suicidal moths.
God watch all the dead children
in thy tender care. Desiccation can advance
the harvest. Turn off that inner monologue
and sing. These are cramped quarters.
God lit the torch and handed it to us.