Cruci-Fiction

don't be cross

Cruci-Fiction

“And when the sixth hour was come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour.”
                                                                                                                                            -Mark 15:33

An eclipse, right ?  It sounds so fine,
Especially when we learn of one,
A total seen in ’29.

Alas, we now can calculate
Down to the nearest minute
And the nearest mile its fate –

And this one was November,
And only nine-tenths partial there –
The dark was still a glowing ember.

The near-miss of ’29 –
The sky was dim, the air was chill,
But the Sun could still outshine.

An hour or so to noon,
And lasting just a hour or two,
So it was over far too soon.

And anyway, it just won’t do –
For Passover was always held
When the Moon was full, not new.

But what about a Lunar one ?
There’s one in April ’33,
At sunset too – job done !

Except…it’s partial, still quite bright,
And it didn’t last an hour in all,
And the only darkness comes with night.

Some suggest volcanic ash instead –
Though that would last for days, and stretch
Throughout the Eastern Med.

Maybe just a heavy storm ?
The legend doesn’t mention rain,
But thunderheads might fit the form.

And yet…is that the best that God
Can rustle up ?  A gloomy afternoon ?
His climax barely gets a nod.

We’re better off with desert dust –
When heavy in the atmosphere
It tints the Moon with rust.

But as the moon sails higher,
So the dust is less through which we peer –
So this one’s not a flyer.

And anyway, how come
There was no-one else wrote down the fact
Of what should strike them dumb ?

Three full hours of dark,
Before the sun had even set ?
Now that should leave its mark !

In our hearts, we know the score –
The sky did not go dark that day.
The world still turned, just as before.

Abiblos

Alas, this is another mystery as to who is the painter

Abiblos

The Greeks never had a canon,
Their gods were not in chapter and verse –
Despite a level of literacy,
They didn’t take gods literally.
Oh sure, they all believed in them,
As unavoidable (or worse),
But ev’ry city-state would give
A local spin to ev’ry myth.

The Greeks never had a canon,
Their gods made do with epic tales –
All unofficial, without guards,
And retold not by priests, but bards.
They probably believed in them,
But stuck their thumbs upon the scales –
As fan-fictions running free
That no-one saw as heresy.

The Greeks never had a canon,
Their gods were merely one of many –
Fighting ev’ry deity
For prayers and popularity.
Oh sure, the Greeks believed in them,
Yet outright-worshipped hardly any –
And who they did would change with fashion –
Sacrifices on a ration.

The Greeks never had a canon,
Their gods were tricky to pin down –
They changed their shapes and names at will
To stay alert and hard to kill.
If folks no more believed in them,
They merged with newer-gods-in-town –
So the Jews think just one god is best ?
Well, toss him on the altar with the rest.

Nice Try, Aesop

Like it says, 9 Aesop Fables by Antonio Frasconi

Nice Try, Aesop

The race is not to the swift,
Nor the fight to the strong –
Though underdogs lose nine in ten,
And the weak last half as long.
The race is won by the winner,
And the winner is usually fast –
The Hare can snooze for the afternoon,
But the Tortoise still comes last.

The point is not to the smug,
Nor the sting to the sharp –
And morals will lose us nine in ten
Whenever the pious harp.
The ears are won by the joker,
Who flatters more than he smarts –
The North Wind can bluster all he likes,
But the Sun will warm our hearts.

Twenty-Eight Alone

feb

Twenty-Eight Alone

February, February,
Went and gave his days away.
He lent a trio to July
(Who’d bent a few of his awry);
He loaned his days out to July,
But never thought they’d beg to stay.
“Oh please, oh please !” would cry each splinter,
“Please don’t send us back to Winter !”

February, February,
Short on shorter days, for sure.
He’ll get no refund from July,
For he’s a seizer on the sly;
His days are dogs, his summers high,
And cancerous his lure.
“I’ll send them back when good and through:
Maybe in a thousand years or two.”

Et In Orcadia, Ego

Antonine Wall by Miguel Coimbra

Et In Orcadia, Ego

Did the Romans ever make it over Antoninus ?
Did their legions hike the Highlands, past the cirsium and pinus ?
Did they meet his high-king highness,
In his fiery hair and golden torc ?
And did they think this seaside caesar woaded-rogue or brutish-ork ?
So did the Agricolan Fleet heave-to in Scapa Flow ?
The orcas and the auks go by, but they don’t know.

Margarita Time

detail from Banquet of Cleopatra by Geovanni Tiepolo

Margarita Time

Cleopatra dropped a pearl in vinegar
To win a bet,
And watched her bead dissolve away to nothing
Without one regret –
Although in truth it must have fizzed a day or two
Before it’s done
And in that time she’d lost her land and lost her life
And lost her son.
And Rome, while once her lover, saw her lustre tarnish
Bit by bit –
For strip away her cultured beauty,
And she’s just a speck of grit.

The Triumph of the Magi

magi
Journey of the Magi by James Tissot

The Triumph of the Magi

There came then Wise Men from the East
Unto a stable by an inn,
And there amid each lowing beast
Were sheltered weary folk within –
For knelt beside a feeding trough
A man and woman vigil kept,
As on the hay and woollen cloth
A baby lay and softly slept.
The elder Magus then addressed
The object of their noble quest –
Whose sleep was peaceful as the blessed –
And unabashed, the old man wept –

“Behold, sweet babe !  There in your cot
The future of mankind is held –
For you are ev’ry chance we’ve got,
With ev’ry hope and fear excelled.
We begged the heavens for a sign,
And with your birth the gods have smiled –
Yet not for any charms divine,
But virtues many, unbeguiled.
Now all who look upon you see
The future of humanity –
More precious than a deity,
Is each belovèd human child.”

Before Year Zero

roman jerusalem
A mural of the Cardo in Jerusalem.  Since the street was laid out in Hadrian’s rebuilding of the city in the HE 10130s, it’s a bit late for the poem but you get the idea.  Alas, I have been unable to find out who the artist is.

Before Year Zero

It is, they say, (or so it’s said),
An Age of Wonder in our Time !
An Age of Peace and Plentitude,
Of Reason and Sublime.
A Pax Romana to us all,
To all us tribes who lost the fight –
As vassal states, we’re better fed,
Than ever were through might !
Come, all Romans, and construct
Your forum and your aqueduct !
And set us on the metalled road
To ever greater heights !
So join our bacchanalia,
From Galilee to Greece to Gaul.
And merry Saturnalia to all !

We may not yet be perfect, true,
But hey, we’ve made a cracking start –
We’re all philosophers, these days,
We’re lovers of the art.
How civilised we have become,
How better yet we’ll grow to be:
Two thousand years of peace shall flow,
Where all mankind is free !
We’ve gods to spare, we’ve gods galore,
And ev’ry tribe will bring some more –
And best of all, they’re kept at bay,
To serve humanity.
So join our bacchanalia
And never mind the zealot’s call.
And merry Saturnalia to all !

Of course, for those of us who prefer the Holocene Calendar, this poem should be called Before Year Ten-Thousand.

Good News in the Silence of Josephus

massacre
The Massacre of the Innocents by Nicolas Poussin

Good News in the Silence of Josephus

Now whether Jesus was or not,
There surely were an infant lot
Who could succumb to Herod’s plot:
Their bodies drawn and quartered.
But where was God to stay these brutes,
And spare His people’s tender fruits,
And never let His nation’s roots
With newborn-blood be watered ?
For what uncaring god divine
Would only spare His royal line ?
His Promised Land – incarnadine,
His folk – unsoned, undaughtered.
Rejoice !  The children never died,
The massacre was not applied –
The priests are wrong – the Bible lied:
The innocents unslaughtered.

At the Sign of ‘The Manger’

caravansary
Caravanserai by Francis Hoyland

At the Sign of ‘The Manger’

Innkeeping’s an hon’rable trade,
Whatever they say –
We’re a welcome light at the end-of-day –
We’re a dry roof and roaring fire
That’s safe from the wolf and the bandit’s blade
When legs begin to tire –
And ev’ryone can call us home
Who come from Babylon to Rome,
Or pilgrims to Jerusalem –
You won’t catch us refusing them,
As long as we get paid.
Or caravans from out the East,
Or shepherds after one last feast
Before they spend their weeks upon the hills.
Our stable yard is filled with strangers –
Merchants, rabbis, farmers, rangers –
And the horses, camels, asses
Of the ever-moving masses,
Who seek shelter from the season’s chills.

But last month, after years of this life,
Of seeing it all – I saw a first.
A man leading a donkey bearing his wife
Who was bearing his child –
Poor beast !  I mean, what a load !
She was so big, fit to burst.
I tell you, it fair got me riled, my friend,
To make her travel so close to her end
On such a bumpy road.
And busy too, this time of year,
With wanderers from far and near
All passing through and moving on,
Who all descend upon our rooms –
It’s boomtime for the hostelries,
We’re busier than bees.

So when they banged upon my door,
I knew I hadn’t even got
A patch of floor to offer them –
Not even room to fit a cot.
Now don’t condemn –
When I, my wife and staff, the lot,
Had long since given up our beds
For other needful, weary heads.
And yet…how could we leave them out to rot ?
Maybe they were on the run,
I wonder what they’ve done ?  But you know what ?
We still could not, and so instead,
We offered them the cattle shed, for what it’s worth.

The place was red with afterbirth
Before the rising of the sun.
Between the ox-cart and the ploughs,
She laid the kid upon the hay
That otherwise would feed the cows.
And when we could, we brought a tray
And kept an eye that all was well –
She understood, but truth to tell
We’d fifty other guests to serve each day.
And they were on their way before I knew it,
After just a week or two –
Heading home or onto somewhere new.
I guess I wish them well and all,
And maybe someday years from now
The child will come around to call,
And maybe make it big somehow.
They were the stranger sort of strangers, sure enough,
In all they did,
But still, they didn’t lack for love to pass down to their kid.

Ah well, better air the rooms and see the beds get made,
Then pop down to the well to draw some water.
But don’t you see, an innkeeper’s a good and honest trade ?
Just ask that couple and their newborn daughter.