Tuesday, October 11, 2005

First Draft of a Poem

I've always liked this name (Maher Shalal Chash Baz); for those who are interested in sources, it's found in Isaiah 8. Incidentally (for those who like trivia), it's the longest word in the Bible. The Vulgate renders it, "Velociter spolia detrahe Cito praedare", which would be a rather long name for a little boy to be saddled with; almost as long as some Puritan names. But you could call him "Velociter" for short. The imagery of the poem is part Isaiah, part Nahum, part Revelation, part Daniel, part other, all jumbled up together.


An angel in heaven was flying
to and fro o'er all the earth;
an angel in a loud voice crying,
How many, O sons of men?

How many men are fallen, O sons of men,
how many are dead and dying
in great Ascalon and Tyre?
How many widows are crying
where the blood flows down like water
from the horse's smashing hoof?

How many young men lie dead, sons of men?
How many in the grave unwed,
where roses grow, and poppies,
in the bloody fields of war?
How many, O ye nations?
How many slip into darkness,
whose face will be seen no more?
How many men are fallen, sons of men?

In the starlit skies, brightly shining,
Mars has wandered to work his will.
In the midst of all our feasting
a formless hand has writ
our sorrow on walls of joy;
we are gravid with the weight of it.
We see it on gilded tables,
on the heads of children at play:
Mahershalalhashbaz --
'Quick pickings, easy prey'.

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