Aperture: Praying Mantis (Prophesies)

by Richard Paez

"Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God!
It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of the needle
than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven."

So I fled into the desert
naked and regret-less,
following faith and finding
only apertures and insects.

You are no Mary Magdalene.
You left me, the child
in the corridor kneeling
at the door and staring
through the keyhole,
the eye of the needle:

My whole world before
me rendered through you,
your aperture contracting,
forever seizing hints
of life and movement
but never any sound.

But then again, I am
no Jesus Christ nor
did I really claim to be.

And if we drop these
messianic robes? Are
we Mantises then? Mouths
cartilaginous, closed
perpetually but always ready,
raptorial, lashing out,

but without venom:
dismounting carefully,
moving like branches,

waiting in ambush, wearing
camouflaged chitin,
cannibalistic, preemptively
praying, always atoning
for the victims
we haven't butchered (yet)?

No. I flee into the desert
naked and remorseless,
following faith and finding
only predetermined prophesies.

The Mantis prays for us.
On the solstice we died
and on the equinox were born:
          The solar year slid over
          by the shadow of our moon.

The Mantis prays, and we
are strung like rosary beads,
hung like carved messiahs:
          wood worn smooth as wax
          by fingerprint-caresses,

          run through with rusted nails
          and not a little irony.

The Mantis prays for me.
My myrrh and gold and frankincense
spent on newly sharpened chisels
          to make an art out of whittling
          away my useless, rank perfections.

          What I wouldn't do
          for some devil
          come to tempt me
          in this godforsaken desert.

The Mantis prays, and you
won't find me in Jerusalem.
The sand has etched and
          chiseled me away.
          The desert is no coffin –

          it is eternity made fluid
          in petrified slow-motion.

The Mantis prays for us.
On the solstice we are born
and on the equinox we die:
          So I flee into the desert
          naked yet embalmed
          in faith and foresight,
          finding always
          apertures and insects.


Posted on 10/31/2009
Copyright © 2024 Richard Paez

Member Comments on this Poem
Posted by S. Pelham Flood on 11/04/09 at 01:20 AM

This is vastly different from what I remember of your stuff in workshop! And I really like it.

Posted by Traci Mabats on 11/06/09 at 02:23 AM

Brilliant as usual. Come on Richard, try to write something awful just once. Change it up a bit :)

Posted by Elizabeth Jill on 12/04/09 at 12:12 AM

Having become immediately interested in you from admiring a post you made, here I am. Click on a poem and now I am flooded. Brilliant poet. (This came as no surprise...) Write on, write on, Right On!

Posted by Rula Shin on 02/13/10 at 03:11 AM

A plethora of word plays here, and very well done at that. It gives the poem an Alice in Wonderland sense of depth and imagination. The use of the pronouns, "us, we, me, you, us," respectively is also interesting. There is a theme, a cohesive message strung not only with words or ideas, but with a sound and meticulous structure. One would really have to read and reread this kind of work to really SEE the attention to detail, and to truly realize the layers of meaning. And that, friend, is the kind of poem that's ripe for days of classroom analysis! Wonderful, as usual.

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