5.20.2004

The Man from Babylon

With one finger
He pushes aside the knife
His mind turned toward

Him, and squats by the river
To wash the other man
From his hands. A third

Sits on a rock behind
Him, but neither knows
How to be a man.

Looking back, the first sees
A glowing angel, his back
To him because, he assumes,

He can’t look, and, stooping
In the water, he feels
A tail grow out and tuck

Between his legs. He returns
To sit beside the frontier
And the angel, not looking at him,

Asks, “Are you here for me?”
The angel lowers his sickle
And looks, then, at the animal

With glowering sorry eyes,
And the animal sees his reflection
Shivering there like Janus,

And droops his head only to see
God emerging out of the ground
Between them and the angel

Says, though it is God’s lips
Moving, “Woe, woe, the great city,
She who was clothed in fine linen

And purple and scarlet, and adorned
With gold and precious stones
And pearls, for in one hour

Such great wealth has been laid waste.”
God grows into a towering city
As the animal’s tongue falls,

Severed, to the ground, and the angel
Goes to the wormwood creek
To wash his reaper.

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