Next to Godliness
Even fire—despite insatiability I envy, Hell below, writhing saints above, though it reduces us to catharsis or dusty murmurs, drafts my farts in to strengthen the fuel—will not serve, not while I clean out the ash. Nor will decay—despite waterlilies creaming the sewage-treatment marsh, smells of Stilton cheese and fall, worms trimming in secret, though I’ve twisted metal fasteners back and forth, hypnotized as lichen by its task—not while there are fossils. It will have to be a subduction trench: bottom fish nibble flesh, the floor bears bones down into invisible red heat, to be lost in volcanoes.
In the most unspoiled desert
he danced, rattled, chanted, until
the person alit, with dry muzzle:
What price for your soul?
I hadn’t thought about that yet.
Barely able to talk, he said,
Burn me again—but why bother?
It’s not like punishment
can take away my sins.
So you still deserve it, right?
Lucifer found he fit in snugly:
a powerful taste for harp,
talent for praise.
Gerald Friedman grew up in the suburbs of Cleveland and now teaches physics at Santa Fe Community College. He’s ready to go back to face-to-face teaching as soon as it’s possible. He has published poems in various journals, recently Rat’s Ass Review, Quatrain.Fish, Panoply, and Entropy.