Article in Arts / Literature / Poetry
Many ideas and precursors figure in this poem – Psalm 137, e.g., or Verdi’s NABUCCO. But motivating the poem is my horror of vengeance. Why does the Hebrew god reserve vengeance to himself? Because mankind can’t handle it, can only get it wrong. Just so, the vengeful are tearing America to pieces.
 
 
 

By the Waters


There on the poplars we hung our harps.
Psalm 137.2

The body in the trunk he expected me
To understand, even shrug my shoulders,
As though business as usual were the rule,
The order of the day — blood, stink, guts, and all.
I followed his lead, he hardly spoke a word,
And lifted the body as he did too.
Through my gloves I felt the cold surprise my skin —
I was ready to set it down … this corpse.
The waters had risen even higher
Since I fled the site as the building sank,
The bosses scrambling to escape the surge,
And my car full of children I tried to save.
I have no idea how I came to stand
In back of his trunk staring at his corpse.
He would not set it down — it would float away —
But I dropped the legs and ran hard as I might
To what looked like high ground and maybe others,
Maybe the children I’d unaccountably lost.
But the waters whelmed me, I could see nothing,
And breathless I waked to brutal laughter,
Spewing from sepulchers sounding white as bone.

 

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R Allen Shoaf
EROTIC RECKONINGS, my second volume of poetry, can now be purchased from New Plains Press or from Amazon. My third volume, PIED-PIPER PHILOL

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