Waken, would-be martyrs seeking causes
to in an instant devote life and limb, and cling
half-drowned along the upturned raft of culture
that leaking, seeks the bottom of the quay.
The words that might be spoken now are silenced;
upon the stump the bloody axe rests, still
slick from the cloying jugular wine that pools
beneath the severed head there in the bowl.
A brotherhood of fools will find its equal
among the rushes, bent with each new wind
and whispering inanities and slogans
that pampleteers shed like oak leaves each fall.
What would you say aloud to fire this army
of malcontents who look to their own skins?
Beyond the content of their bellies, do they seem to care
for rhetoric that asks after their minds?
And those self-sacrificers dream redemption songs
that for a moment, find a tuneful ear
and are transformed beyond a pale chimera
that floats upon the stale, dry air, then fades.
Is there a cause worth half this senseless slaughter?
Behind the scenes, the tribal elders watch
and pick out young recruits that seem more likely
to run in panic; these make the best bullies.
What do the gods require from each new generation?
Are not the first-fruits destined for their hands?
To pose elsewise is suicide, beyond the help of prayer;
besides, a death unscheduled can’t be used.
The rebel tools that stock the workshops of the status quo
serve best if left to rust, their edges dulled.
What good is there in martyrdom to others’ causes
unless you’ve nothing worthwhile back at home?
Curse you to your own self-made hells, you preachers
who safe behind your pulpits can commit
your congregation, knowing they are malleable,
their self-will sapped to serve some future realm.
And those who in their natures, find the substance
of service, but are lacking steady work —
be sure the cause you choose is your own making
and not the sad agenda of the damned.
24 MAY 2004