Monday, April 12, 2010

April 8: Saint Agabus

For those of my readers who've been wondering what has happened to Manly Man Poetry Night, it went on hiatus for a couple of weeks. On the fourth Thursday of every month, I host a book club at my house, and the Thursday after that was Maunday Thursday. Needless to say, my pastor friend was otherwise engaged that evening, and so was I. But, never fear, loyal and faithful poetry fans (there has to be at least two of you out there). Manly Man Poetry Night has reconvened, and all is right with the world. The muses are at work, and the onion rings are on the plate.

So, this Thursday, my pastor friend and I met for dinner. Now, for those of you that think dinner refers to lunch, let me correct you. You're wrong. Lunch is lunch, and dinner refers to the third meal of the day, generally eaten after 5 p.m. We met at Big Boy at 6:30 p.m., and, since neither of us had time to eat, we both ordered meals.

I ordered a great farmer's omelet with ham and cheese and onions and peppers. It was served on a bed of hash browns with a side of rye toast. My friend ordered the club sandwich, I believe, with a side of onion rings (of course), plus the soup and salad bar. After we sat for a while and complained about the snowstorm shaking the windows of the restaurant, we moved on to our poetry for the night.

We used the same tabloid exercise that we used at our previous meeting a few weeks before. (For those of you that missed that posting, check out March 18 on Saint Alexander. Also, try to keep up better.) Now, as before, I tried to kill two birds with one poem. I wrote about both the tabloid headline and the saint for the day.

If you couldn't tell by my recent entry that made use of Star Wars, I will confess to you right now that I am a bit of a science fiction geek. When the original Star Wars was released in theaters, I saw it 27 times. (I'm not talking about the bastardized version Lucas released prior to ruining the series with Jar Jar Binks. I'm talking Alec Guinness as a flesh-and-blood Obi wan, and the kiss between Luke and Leia before it became yucky and incestuous.) So, it should come as no surprise that the headline I chose to base my poem on was "Martians Monitor Middle East Violence," which has echoes of War of the Worlds (both Spielberg's and George Pal's versions) and The Day the Earth Stood Still (the original with Michael Rennie, not the dumb Keanu Reeves remake with locust clouds of alien fleas).

The saint for the day was Agabus, a contemporary of the twelve apostles and probably one of the 72 disciples. Agabus's story is pretty much like the stories of all the disciples. He wandered the deserts and towns, spreading the ideas and words of Jesus, working a few miracles along the way to keep people talking. Agabus had the gift of prophecy. He foretold the coming of a famine in the Roman Empire, which took place in 42 to 44 A.D. He also prophesied the imprisonment of Paul, which is referred to in Acts 21.

So, I have a New Testament prophet, Martians, and the Middle East. Add some onion rings, a few Diet Pepsis, and a weekend of revisions, and you get the following poem:

Martians Monitor Middle East Violence

Pile-8 met Agabus in a desert
In Palestine, came down in a wheel
From the stars, came from the blood planet
On a quest for truth about Earth's children.
Agabus, fresh from Roman famine,
Called Pile-8 an angel, a winged
Servant of God, waited for the visitor
To deliver a message from the one
Agabus called peace's prince.
Pile-8 blinked his olive black eyes,
Kept silent, wings folded, waited
For a sign to unleash death's ray
Upon the hairless, sand ape.

Agabus filled Pile-8's eight ears
With words of love and forgiveness,
Words of a son of the universe,
Whipped, torn, spiked, speared.
Agabus talked of this son
Rising, shaking off the tentacles
Of death like a great, blue whale,
Flooding the world with oceans of light.
Pile-8's stomachs quivered into fists
When the ape called the one who rose
The lord. The savior. The way. The truth.

Like his cousin did for Ezekiel, Pile-8
Took Agabus into his wheel, probed
The grey matter of his skull
For fragments, pictures of this truth
Giver. All he found were dreams
Of deep wells filled with sun,
Cups pressed to thirsty lips,
Baskets spilling thousands of silver
Fish into dry, empty lake beds.
And bread. Bread steaming. Bread white.
Bread dark. Bread yellow as honey.
Bread red as Pile-8's home.
After days and days of this bread,
Pile-8 returned Agabus to the sand,
Then ascended back to sky, to stars,
To black space, to his planet of war.

Pile-8 couldn't rest after that time,
Always felt hollow. He watched
Earth for two thousand solar cycles,
Watched as the brothers and sisters
Of Agabus whipped, tore, spiked,
Speared each other, over and over,
Acted as hungry, thirsty as famine, drought.
More than once, Pile-8 aimed his fire
At the deserts, almost rained apocalypse
On the warring children of this world.
But, always, the dreams of Agabus
Stopped him, filled his four bellies
With a need he couldn't name,
A need for more than the cold, killing
Rocks of Mars. A need for wells
Full of light. Bottomless cups.
Fish multiplying exponentially
From baskets. And bread.
White as polar caps. Dark as mud.
Yellow as citric fruit. Red
As his mother's deep womb.

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