The One Commandment

Madman at the peak
of the desolate mountain,
led there by a will o’ the wisp,
a still small voice amid
the flashing rhomboids
of a splitting migraine.
He howls at the God
whose every commandment
he has come to fetch.

After a throat-clear of steam
and a spurt of magma,
the great voice bellows
as he flattens himself
in a yellow pool
of his own terror.
Words glorious
     and in the tongue of his fathers,
that which is everything speaks:

I AM THE JUST
COMPASSIONATE GOD,
LORD OF MERCY
AND SOLE SALVATION.
COME CLOSE, POUR OUT
THE HEART BLOOD ON MY ALTAR.

Not today, Lord.
he whimpers,
I have come alone
and bladeless.
Only this shepherd’s staff —


The mountain quakes:
BLOOD! POUR THE BLOOD!
AND NOT JUST ONCE
BUT ALWAYS.
MAKE SURE THE BLADE
IS EVER SHARPENED FOR ANOTHER.

LEAN CLOSE AND HEAR
FROM DEEP WITHIN CREATION’S
SOUL AND DEMIURGE,
MY ONE AND TRUE COMMANDMENT:

KILL. KILL EVERYONE.
GO YE FORTH IN CHARIOTS,
TAKE SWORD AND FIRE AND JAVELIN,
COVER THE GLOBE WITH WARRIORS.
KILL ONE ANOTHER, SLAUGHTER
THE BABIES AND INNOCENTS.
CEASE NOT UNTIL
BUT ONE OF YOU REMAINS.

Then God went silent.
Struck dumb with horror,
Moses went down
to the calf-mad Israelites,
told no one the real command,
invented a tale,
inscribed some laws.

Despite his prudence
he talked in his sleep.
His sons took up the cudgel,
passed on the secret
maniacal urge of the tyrant god.

Always behind the king
an advisor, or patriarch
steeped in the long-range
marching orders.
Five thousand years the wars
raged on, the world swept thrice
into total commotion,
each peace a mere gathering
of new and more lethal
armaments, until

one man,
brown-caked with blood,
covered with scar and bruises,
climbs to the peak of Sinai.

Lord, he reports,
     all you have said
is done. I am the last
warrior. I come
for my reward
for the task accomplished.
  
     The mountain quakes,
winds roar,
            a boulder tips
out from its neighbors
on the cliff above,
falls and crushes
the supine worshiper.

The Being laughs
     in his magma bed,
passes on the joke
to his silicon cousins.
The crystals rejoice,
poles shift in mirth
as nickel-iron celebrates.
Aluminum could bust a gut.
Limestone and shale
are splitting with laughter.
Coal stamps its feet
and grinds out diamonds.

“Just think,” repeats
the howling Titan,
“how stupid they were,
those meddling humans,
those ugly bone-bags
of knotted carbon!
So dumb they’d do
whatever a doddering
volcano commanded!
If only we’d thought of it sooner!”


1988/ rev. 2011

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