Samson’s Riddle – At Saint So-and-So’s – Caravaggio Catching Fireflies

MICHAEL YOST is a teacher, freelance essayist and poet. He lives in rural New Hampshire with his wife and two sons.

Samson’s Riddle

From the stench of rotting hide,

From the hot and muscled weight of death,

From the hunter’s tawny jaw,

From the ancient eater’s mottled mouth,

            Comes wealth of peace;

Comes a city from the open side,

Comes the hum of honeyed breath,

Comes the transformation of the law,

Comes the manna in the drouth,

            From all decease.

At Saint So-and-So’s

Highway traffic scores and hums

Beneath the Sabbath hymnody.

Laymen in tropic shirtsleeves come

Their wives in wireless fidelity arrayed.

The seating is precise, the manners casual.

Grins and handshakes are exchanged

Inside the sanctuary gate as usual.

Outside, Escalades and Honda Pilots range.

The Victim crouches on his cross an hour,

Tired as an aging wall-flower,

Who will not speak to the rotarians

Any more than Pharisees or Arians.

He turns with an embarrassed groan

Towards the altar, with its flower pots

And the altar boys, their hair well combed

Whose sagging bodies tell their wandering thoughts.

Soon these will return to the world they know;

Soon ever and again they will return

To low-calorie beer, boutiques, and late night shows,

To spread-sheets, focus-groups, and therapists in turn.

They will leave the cobwebbed well

And wander through the desert’s stations

For gross are the hearts of the nations

And uncultivated is the soil.

Caravaggio Catching Fireflies

As the sunlight fades and dies, Caravaggio catches fireflies

amid chiaroscuro, and the studio light;

With pestle reforms fire into night

Cups the light, turns alchemist, and drinks

Converting it to darkness as the daylight sinks.