Heads Up poetry column: Fleas


I form the light, and create darkness:
I make peace, and create evil:

I the Lord do all these things.

— Isaiah 45:7

I think that I shall never see

a poem as ugly as a flea,

a flea whose hungry mouth is pressed

against a buttock or a breast,

a flea that spreads disease all day

and lifts its little claws to prey:

poems are made by you and me,

but only God can make a flea.

I think that no one ever made

a poem as powerful as AIDS,

or plagues that may in summer kill

half the bishops in Brazil

and share the good Lord’s Final Answer

with clots and cholera and cancer —

for God concocted pox to mock us,

staph and syph and streptococcus:

poems are made by bards or hacks,

but only God makes cardiacs.

I think that I shall never smell

a poem as pungent as a hell,

where grinning devils turn the screws

on saintly Sikhs and upright Jews,

giving them the holy scorcher,

timeless, transcendental torture:

poems can make you want to yell,

but only God can give you hell.

From Perfidious Proverbs and Other Poems:

A Satirical Look At The Bible