The Kine

The Kine

As the son of a dairy herd,
My father told me secret words –
On Christmas Eve, between ourselves ,
Our cattle knelt at the stroke of Twelve.
“Can I see it ?”  “No, too late,
You’ll have to grow up first and wait.
Let’s tuck you up, like the hens and geese,
And leave the girls to kneel in peace.”
But unlike Thomas Hardy, I
Was not prepared to pass it by,
And woke by chance at seven-to
When bursting for the landing loo.
This was my chance – I had to go,
Or else I knew I’d never know –
I creped downstairs, across the floor,
To don my peacoat by the door.
I left my slippers on my feet
For I had destiny to meet !,
Not a second’s hesitation
Could be wasted with a lace-on.
Lift the latch and out we go,
Crunching softly through the snow,
(Despite that day’s half-hearted thaw),
To squelch across the muck and straw
That filled the barn, those bovine halls,
And peeked into the Winter stalls
(And now I wish I’d worn my wellies) –
No !  They’re all led on their bellies !
Some had rolled onto their flanks,
And none had tucked beneath their shanks,
And all their heads were on the boards,
And none kept vigil for the Lord.
Our ev’ry beast was heathen-born !,
From Hyacinth to Meadowcorn,
And Rosie, Daisy, Pansy too,
They each and all just slept on through !
So distraught was I, so dead,
I didn’t hear my father’s tread
Until his hand was on my shoulder,
“Seems tonight you’re growing older.
I suppose I set this up,
But never thought my little pup
Would take my story at my word –
It’s passed down with the family herd.”
I tried to scream, I tried to cry
But all that left my lips was “Why ?”
“If you want to ask me that,
It’s too late for a lengthy chat –
So I will only answer once,
Then off to bed and no more stunts.”
“Then…then…I want to ask
How deep is worn this parents’ mask ?
Are all the rest a lie as well –
Like Santa, Jesus, Tinkerbell ?”
“Fair enough, the answer’s Yes.”
“For which ?” I blurted in distress,
But he just smiled, and shook his head,
And carried me upstairs to bed.

The Census of Quirinius

The Census of Quirinius by the circle of Willem de Poorter (I have no idea if ‘circle of’ is different than ‘school of’)

The Census of Quirinius

Ev’rybody, listen well,
It’s time to let the tellers tell –
It’s time to tally, toll, and tot,
To work out how much folks we’ve got.
Ev’rybody, near and far,
We need to count you where you are.
Don’t move about, don’t clog the roads,
We need you logged in your abodes.
Get off those donkeys !  Park those asses !
Stop this movement of the masses !
We don’t care whose tribe is yours,
Your genealogies are bores !
Whatever heritage you claim,
You know, we’ll tax you just the same.
So you’re descended down from David,
Centuries years ago, hey kid ?
But so is half the town, no doubt –
You are aware he got about ?
Ah well, I guess you’ve made it now,
Let’s have your data anyhow –

You say you are a carpenter,
And also you’re…a harbinger…?
So would you be, may I enquire,
Yet another Lord Messiah ?
Oh, your son, you claim, not you ?
I’ll put you down as Number II.
But wait…I hear upon your tongue
An accent…are you further-flung ?,
A shibboleth upon your breath –
You say you hail from…Nazareth ?
You mean you live in Galilee ?
Then why, by Jupiter, tell me ?
Why can you Northerners not grasp,
You pay your tax to Antipas ?
Well yes, they all reach Rome, each load,
But travel by a diff’rent road.
Now please, go home !, our time is done,
Now live your life and raise your son –
But give to Caesar, nonetheless…
So Hermes-speed, and Juno-bless.

Seven Seven

The Lord Fulfilleth All his Works by Clark Price

Seven Seven

The ant, the sloth, the kangaroo,
They came to Noah two-by-two,
Except the clean ones, those were more,
But just how many ?- he’s not sure.

You see, the perfect word from Heaven
Told him to load ‘seven seven’
Of the creatures that are ‘clean’ –
But what on Earth does than all mean ?

Which are clean and which are tosh ?,
When all these beasts could use a wash.
Perhaps he’ll know the spotless souls
Because they’ll come in multiples.

So is it seven beasts, all told,
That he must harbour in his hold ?
The Lord has reasons, without doubt,
But still – which sex is odd-one out ?

Or is it really seven pairs
That he must cram below the stairs ?
Well – “seven seven”, that’s the line –
But damn, that could be forty-nine !

How is he meant to feed all those ?
Will they be small, do you suppose,
Like tortoises – who barely browse ?
Of course not !  It’s the bloody cows !

Mistress Blacklock

detail from Saint Peter in front of his eponymous basilica in the Vatican, sculpted by Adamo Tadolini

Mistress Blacklock

Throughout the gothic city-states,
Secure with many doors and gates,
The greatest craftsmen in the land
Were those who crafted locks –
Protecting life and property
Behind the password of a key –
And yet, with just a twist of hand
It frees our hearths and stocks.

Thus, whereupon the plague is rife,
The locals dread their very life,
And conjured up a chatelaine
To rattle in the night –
A mistress dark and grimly tall
With sturdy boots and sweeping shawl,
And ring-bound keys upon a chain
To lock the dead up tight.

Never in a hurry, she,
Yet striding on determinedly –
She visits those who’s fever runs
As fast as runs their sands.
No lock can bar her solemn deeds,
For she has just the key she needs
To reach all lovers, reach all sons –
Where’er the fever lands.

The doors unlock, and slowly swing
Upon the rogue and saint and king,
And in she stalks with silent ease,
And stoppable by none.
She takes the ring about her waist
And cycles, never in a haste,
Through all her heavy iron keys
To find the very one.

And that she lifts and points toward
Her victim, all the rest ignored
And presses to his chest her shaft
That bloodless passes through.
The fingers of her left discern
The bow upon the shank, and turn
As smoothly as the masters’ craft
Their workings, firm and true.

Her right she offers to he held
By him, that fear may be dispelled –
They say her bony, steady hands
Are warmer than you’d think.
And so his latches spring apart
To free his soul and stop his heart –
Her key withdraws from out his glands
With just the faintest clink.

And with that, speaking not a word,
And with no other neighbour stirred,
The plague has been about its chores
With not a jam or jolt.
As through the busy, ailing towns
She goes about her nightly rounds,
Of dousing lights and shutting doors
And drawing home the bolts.

Thank-You and Goodnight

detail from a 1700s German painting by, well, who knows ?

Thank-You and Goodnight

The End of the World should come on a Sunday,
After a glorious night on the tiles –
When we’re hungover with breakfast at noon,
Then we’d welcome Apocalypse, fire and typhoon !
We’ve slogged all the week, so give us some fun, hey,
Hold off the Hades till priests fill the aisles –
Not with a Mardi, but Samedi Gras !
A season finale, and one last hurrah !

Lonely Cross

Lonely Cross

Does the Devil lurk at crossroads ?
Doesn’t he have some place to go ?
It’s a waypoint, not a terminus.
But strum a guitar to the croaking toads
And see if the Highway Lord will show –
Or, failing that, the midnight bus.

Isn’t this where mediaeval priests
Would bury the suicidal souls ?
Is that why Satan’s such a fan ?
But no undeads tonight, at least,
Just jamming with the bats and moles,
With not a trace of a bogeyman.

Of all the places to meet with fate,
A junction seems a strange address –
It sounds like the Devil’s lost his way.
Whatever, the hour is getting late,
With only the hedgehogs to impress –
Time, perhaps, to call it a day.

These roads are just two country lanes,
That even in daylight are pretty stark –
The Devil has better things to do.
Now, which way did I come, again ?
All these paths look the same in the dark –
Where’s the signpost ?  Not a clue…

Their Ears are Dull of Hearing

In Church – A Composing Sermon by another anon, alas

Their Ears are Dull of Hearing

“And these are the garments that you shall craft –
A breastplate, an ephod, and broideried coat,
A mitre, and girdle of curious draft.”
And thus it was written, for thus they wrote.

And you shall take gold, and purple, and blue,
And scarlet, and fine twined linen and thread,
With much cunning work, and onyx stones two.”
And thus it was written, for thus they said.

“These are the garments most holy you’ll make
For priests, that they may minister me
In glory and beauty, and for my sake.”
And thus it was written, eternally.

Plans and measurements, timber and twill –
The Ark, the Altar, the Tabernacle.
Why do we need to remember these still ?
Haven’t we more pressing matters to tackle ?

“Ham begat Put begat Cush begat Nimrod,
And Lotan, and Shobal, and duke Zibeon,
And Shem begat Elam and Aram and Lud…”
And thus it was written, and on, and on.

“Seethe not the kid in the milk of his mother,
Now mine is the firstling from out of the womb,
And thou shalt not make of a slave of another…
No, let’s drop that last one – we’ve run out of room…”

These are the Beasts upon the Earth

Birds of the Bible by Catherine McClung

These are the Beasts upon the Earth

The Bible lumps the bats in with the birds,
And oh, how we sneer.
“A mammal is no more a fowl
Than a dragonfly is like an owl.”
But hang-on, none of those are Hebrew words,
So none of those appear
In the ancient texts – they’re our translations,
Sent back in time to new vocations.

Maybe what we think meant ‘bird’ to them
Meant simply ‘thing that flies’ –
And likewise whales are fish that swim,
And snakes are worms for lacking limbs.
It’s unscientific, so we condemn,
But that don’t mean it’s lies.
Their names did the job they were assigned –
So each to their own, hey, after their kind.

Balaam’s Asses

Balaam’s Ass by Gustave Doré

Balaam’s Asses

The Fundamentalists, they have it easy,
Claiming ev’ry King James word is true.
Of course the donkey spoke, if a little wheezy –
When God’s at hand, then that’s what donkey’s do.

But here in the good old C of E,
We never talk of the talking ass –
Like Balaam, we simply do not see,
And think the verse is lacking class.

Deep down, we know, you see – we know no donkey
Has the necessary lips, nor tongue, nor throat –
A quaint little fairytale, but quite the wrong key
For Sunday mornings – so not something we quote.

Now we’ve no problems with Holy Week
And the Resurrection – we’re all onboard –
But we just cannot accept that an ass can speak,
Not even for the Lord.

Neater by the Dozen

Neater by the Dozen

Disciples or Olympians,
They always come in dozens,
Keeping in the families
With brothers, sons, and cousins.
Add in Tribes of Israel,
And Knights about the table,
And clearly stories love their twelves
As various yet stable.
But always, there’s a glut of candidates
From which to choose,
And no two-tellings can agree
On which ones win or lose –
Oh sure, there’s half-a-dozen, maybe eight,
All guaranteed –
But for the rest, it’s anybody’s guess
Who will succeed…
They’re heroes of the second-tiers,
The extras at the feast,
Without a story of their own,
But name-checked still, at least.
A pool of six to eight will form
As random plot devices –
A few more names to fill the ranks
As redshirt sacrifices.
A handful get the nod this time,
The rest stay on the bench –
And of the lucky ones, we know
These men are strictly ‘hench’.
So two or three are left out in the cold,
Cos here’s the rub –
You’re clique is nothing special
If there’s fourteen in your club.