Before prayer in the schools we had the Crusades
and we cleaned out the stockpot once a year.
Virtually everything we ate induced narcosis,
a condition we often confused with god.
Some told of a river that ran outside the city walls
and of how it moved to avoid their touch,
a giant serpent twisting forever away. If it wasn’t the devil
it was the work of the devil, like everything else we wanted.
Remorse held us together until we died young
and most of us never realized we were mammals—
indeed we were suspicious of birds but rats, well, rats
we found charming, with their eyes so full
of sympathy, their need for warmth like our own. We also
wanted love to suffice. Flies that collected on the lesions
of the dying: angels one and all: no one could be too careful.
It seemed a flood was forever rinsing ideas from my tongue
so I said nothing or spoke louder, I was always drowning.
I couldn’t have changed anything.
All right there was the alchemist
and I loved him but I could not save him.
Once I dreamt of electricity. Was this the river,
the one that altered its course like a wounded thing?
We had no trees, only sticks.
Huge gears turned in the sky.
- Mark Bibbins