On Sunday afternoon
   with a low headache
      I think of innumerable beings
tortured to death
   so that I could be
      vague, dissatisfied, ill at ease
writing just these words;

they learned to breathe
   in the ovens of primeval beaches,
      one in a million,
deformed, faceless, stinking in the rot,
   crawling toward the next
      breath, or
God's heavy foot.

The stars we know
   with angelic indifference shone
      alike on the dumb rock,
the oceans endlessly grinding, and,
      the ancestors struggling
up, up, lightward --

Now in the papers
   I see they have learned to read
      messages from those angels
that turn the key of being in the lock,
   opening up the
      furnaces of creation,
it is child's play:

is and is not
   tremble in the balance
      of an angel's childish hands;
the dark faces on the fiery sands
   nothing to them,
      nothing the heat
and the dread, their -- our -- ancient fury.

copyright © 1998 Gordon Fitch