We bring the very best things we have made.
We made wealth, lots of it. At first we made it
for our benefit, a mark of fruitfulness,
the limited but real success of the Genesis command;
but then we made it for its own sake, and it grew
like Jack's beanstalk, climbing to the sky,
to a promised kingdom of financial markets,
a world of make-believe where Giant Greed
thunders blindly around looking for lunch.
Sometimes he eats up whole economies
in his hunger for a dividend, yet he dreads
the sound of reality chop-chop-chopping that will pull
the whole thing crashing down about our ears.
We bring our wealth, and our contempt of it.
We made religion, plenty of it. We made it
mainly for our benefit. We shaped it carefully
into Aladdin's lamp, so that when we rub
and say the proper magic words
God rises like a genie from the spout,
our wishes his command. We lie awake
murmuring prayers of open sesame
for the door of the magic cave to spring
on all the riches of eternity. Sometimes
our fickle genie seems unsatisfied with them and so
we use the lamp more sparingly these days.
We bring religion, and our contempt of it.
We tried to make life, but so far without success.
Determined that like Cinderella we shall go
to the ball of endless youth, the cryogenic fairy waves
her wand of magic promises:
diets, hairdos, workouts, facials,
lifted chins, and now re-engineering—
fresh hips, new lungs, transplanted hearts
and spare part organs grown from embryos
to turn the pumpkin of our body
into a glittering carriage. We don’t look bad,
on a good day in a sympathetic light,
but when the clock strikes twelve our time's still up
and our carefully-fashioned show returns
to mice and vegetation. It's a bore.
Prince Charming needn't hold his breath:
we can't yet bring life, and so
we bring death, and our great contempt of it.
The gold, the incense, the embalming spices,
our pantomime contains the lot.
We hope you like them. They're the best we've got.
The third of four poems in the sequence Magi.
© Godfrey Rust 1998, firstname.lastname@example.org. See here for permissions.