Cain Speaks to God
All I ever wanted was your approval.
So I picked the finest vegetables,
the sweetest fruit, washed
each one, leaving the moisture
to sparkle before your eyes as
I placed them on a blanket made
of the finest cotton at your feet.
I bowed and lay prostrate on the ground
until I smelled the stench of sheep
that always preceded Abel, signaling
his arrival. I looked up to see you
staring beyond me, smiling at him.
I crouched there, a worthless human
being, while you wrapped yourself
in the wool of my brother's young
lamb and gorged yourself on mutton
fat, and I cringed in disgust, causing
you to look back at me and question
my wrath as if you were not a god,
for how could you not understand me?
How could you bear no responsibility
for the consequences of your actions?
Instead you deflected the disapproval
you knew would come by placing
hatred in my heart, the desire to kill.
So I honored you by cutting his
throat, just like the ram he slayed
that morning in your name, and I
watched in silence as his blood soaked
into the ground, knowing he would
be the first of millions to turn the earth red,
How could you ask where he was?
Did you not know the answer?
Do you not know everything?
How could you not understand
the irony of my question, Am I
my brother's keeper? I wanted
to shout at you, Are you not
your creation's keeper?
What god could not understand
that was my meaning all along?
Unless you were a false god, an
idol who could not even read our
minds, who could not even prevent
one simple act of bloodshed.
You drove me away to wander,
Now as I glance back to the West,
I see the cherubim of flaming sword
always there, always driving me farther
east, away from Eden and peace, but I
press on bolstered by the truth: that you
are not the god I once believed you were.
Henry's Last Dream Song
(In Honor of John Berryman)
Suicides always try to cheat death
by dying: Sylvia chose the warm oven
despite the different buzz
in her ear, the tingling sensation of life's breath
trying to reach the dulled mind. Everyone
followed in rapid succession,
leaving poor Henry at the end of the race,
wondering if his turn would ever come
& shouting 'Wait for me!'
So Henry, hot shit, him no fool,
him leave his Inner Resources all ova da place
for da cops to pick up.
And what I want to know is what went on
in Henry's mind as he fell like a man
in an unstoppable dream
clutches blankets struggling hard to yell.
Tell me, Mr. Bones, was he surprised
by the loudness of his scream?
("Henry's Last Dream Song" was a finalist on the Goodreads February 2011 Poetry Contest in the group Poetry.)
Jimmy Pappas received a BA in English from Bridgewater State University and an MA in English Literature from Rivier University. After serving in Vietnam with the Palace Dog program training South Vietnamese soldiers, he taught high school English, poetry, and philosophy for many years. Since his retirement, he has facilitated writing workshops for adults and young poets and has focused on putting together at least four collections of his own poetry for publication. Jimmy's poems have been published in such journals as Atticus Review, Kentucky Review, Red River Review, Poppy Road Review, Apeiron Review, Houseboat, and The Poets' Touchstone. As an active member of the Poetry Society of New Hampshire, he is a frequent reader at events around the state.
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