Ideas and vagaries ebb in transient flow with human currents
of time and DC-8’s screaming on the celestial sphere with
muted anhydrous tongues of smoky kerosene like lanterns in
barns in dusty Georgia barns and where is the god arrangement
for poor old Job – on dung with maggots squirming in
ebullient blood and pus and how was he supposed to know about
deoxyribonucleic acid and Einstein’s Hiroshima with critical mass
and the Jordan River and John Glenn seeing four sunsets in
one day while Mr. Pickering moves Orion’s arm and Trieste
sinks seven miles at five thousand psi.
Images of 1963 Ford Thunderbird coming soon doing fifty on the
Appian Way and DC-8’s screaming above the Parthenon and what the
hell is an apocalypse anyway and God Ginsburg in the Charybdis
of Rockefeller Center.
Moloch empties the ashtrays at the White House then takes the
DC-8 to Kremlin – I like the 707 better but only 200 dead
and how many fly each day (and Job didn’t know the uniform and coffee
tea or milk).
In view of the impending crisis this government can only suck
its thumb while Chamberlain waves a white paper invitation to
the Furies – Job Charlie Lindbergh flew in a hard seat for 30
hours and they carried him on their shoulders while the Norns
had already written off his kid but strange enigma the ways of
Him your dung-heap ‘cause Einstein sure showed up Jesus – only
one hundred thousand dead in painless wax-melting of instantaneous
short time except when your hair falls out and vomit vomit vomit
insides out on the seventh level.
And buzzing of clocks to count and devour the never-nows while
Socrates drinks the hemlock on the fourth planet of the seventh
sun of Andromeda; labyrinths of sweaty books that include each
other in desperate leaves that record the never-nows from
never-was to never-will-be.
Yet Job’s page screams nothingness into the abyss.
And Nickles stares with empty eyes at empty eyes of Zeus and
the stare is a straight line – the shortest distance between
nowhere and everywhere.
His light was darkness for the darkness was light and the
firmament was abyss because the atoms were abysmal.
He was not the Creator, He was the Destroyer destroying the
never-was for ephemeral never-nows until the never-will-be
destroying His own oblivion for brief infinities of never-nows.
The clouds break, sunbeams pierce the overcast, the seventh cavalry
arrives and Job is restored – but the film breaks and flows in coils
to the wreathed abyss.
The picture dances on while frames fall dark.
This poem was originally written in 1962, inspired by the play “J.B.” by Archibald MacLeish (May 7, 1892 – April 20, 1982). MacLeish won his third Pulitzer Prize and a Tony Award for the play, a verse drama based on the Biblical book of Job. “J.B.” features a play-within-a-play, in which Mr. Zuss and Nickles act out the roles of God and Satan inside an enormous circus tent. When J.B., a wealthy New York banker, loses his children and property, he turns to the two men for explanations and advice. MacLeish was a well respected Librarian of Congress from 1939 to 1944, and was US Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs from 1944 to 1945. He is the author of 22 books of poems.
Lewis J. Perelman is a policy analyst and consultant, and author of six nonfiction books, including the best-selling School's Out (William Morrow, 1992). He currently writes and publishes essays in the Medium publication Krytic L.