Plague Psalm 19

Philip Metres

The heavens
                         distract from the gnashing of ants
And from your mouth pour forth
                                                   doom after doom.
The shaking fist proclaims the wound of your brand—
Nightmare upon nightmare
                         sprout from your moon.

You’ve pitched
                         termites into our wooden house,
And cloud upon cloud upon cloud
                                      you build,
Night after night we hear the working jaws
Packing them full
                         of grayness and rainfall.

Your steeples
                         are sharper than kitchen knives,
Your statues entrap us
                                     with perfection.
Bees needle our sin-stung flesh in your hive
Yet some kind of sweetness
                         still touches the tongue.

May my workloads of muck serve to bless, then,
The gleam of the floor of your seventh heaven.

Philip Metres has written numerous books, including Shrapnel Maps (Copper Canyon, 2020). Winner of Guggenheim, Lannan, and NEA fellowships, he is professor of English and director of the Peace, Justice, and Human Rights program at John Carroll University, and core faculty at Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA.

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