Saturday, January 28, 2017

Jack Scott writes

Godfather Frog 
[Part II]

I saw: Godfather frog
at rest in lotus garden pebble nest
just within green-magic lake
presiding over furniture
he might arrange,
but could not make.
So perfect and so emperor
he might be served by fairy staff
his choice of crayfish, salmon, trout
if he had hunger
when homecoming elves and trolls
present him with their catch,
bounty of the spellbound lake.   

He was, as she said, enormous,
more than large enough
to swell and burst belief.                   
Sovereignly safe, his attitude,
monarch of his history and survival,
imperially ballasted on his throne
of rock and stone and gravel,
recklessly ensconced  
two inches from the top -
foolishly vulnerable.

Here was my great divide,
the fulcrum of my human scale,
the reckoning of my tug of war
between impulse and wisdom.
I’d collected mushrooms obsessively
in blind compulsion,
pillaged living things I didn’t need 
for any purpose,
but to try to own them,
plucked beauty from its pristine setting,
powerless to simply feast my eyes
and enjoy enjoyment
instead of orgiastic plundering.                
Killing is the terminal disease
of the ultimate collector.
Addiction’s child was silent
as she followed me back home.

From my tent I got my trident,
long wrapped instrument       
of potential death,
its points impaled  in corks and clad in foil;
around it twined its nylon coil.
Once shiny, new, and deadly,
now well into the age of rust
it was thinner now,
but on this expedition
still thick enough to kill.
I felt awe and power,
a bloodlust much like greed.
My walking stick - a mountain pick -
became a double agent:
when I fit the lethal tool upon this tip
it was harpoon.

Returning to the scene
of the crime-to-be,
we sucked in air
and held two breaths.
He saw us coming,
he saw us there,
godfather frog saw me.

Having much experience
with targets that I’ve missed 
I hoped he’d move, escape,
while he had his chance.
He saw me move.
He did not move.

I struck the king’s own fool, 
the stubborn lord within his pool
and so became his victim.
He was passive
as all points went in  and through,
the spear in to its hilt,
he was that thick.
Needlessly, I pinned him down;
he did not move a bit.
I held him there a long and silent time.

He sat right there and took it,
stared up at me,
but still he did not move.
Cold blooded, intending hibernation,
but overcome by torpor
of too-sudden winter’s breath
could explain his sluggishness.

I raised the monarch up
impaled upon my fork.
The girl said, “My god, he’s big,”
and old, I thought, and old.
Out of water,
weighty as a melon
and about that size.
I feared my spear would break,
but we were bound together.

She ran to tell her husband,
through the suns and shadows,
became smaller, became gone.
I was left alone with what I’d done
and what I’d yet to do.
I’ve heard frogs sing,
so they must cry,
but he wouldn’t make a sound,
and did not move.
He only looked at me and blinked,
the only sign he was alive.

Since he resisted death thus far,
the worst of it,
the killing yet remains.
Revelation in an instant,  
karma in a flash, dark epiphany.
I did not need you
and you did not need me.

I took my trophy home,
my albatross,
and, moving paperwork aside,
set him on my table.
The barbs were cruel;
they would be crueler coming out than going in.
I had no tool to cut them off.

My sharpest knife I sharpened sharper.
Should I kill him outright?
That would be kinder
if I deserved to use that word.
How would I do it?
What was his anatomy?
Where was his heart?
I plunged my knife
into where, on him,
my own would be.
I did it quick.

His blood was flowing freely now.
His pain was moving him
to try - in vain -  at last
to escape the pain and me,
a struggle which I won thus far
because I felt I had to.

I couldn’t find or pierce his heart -
or he could live without it.
Mercy wasn’t possible;           
to end his pain
I must intensify it.
I had no choice,
and acted swiftly.

I tried to cut his head off,
but he had no neck
and cut was but a verb;
he was as tough as leather.
He was clad in leather!

I sawed and hacked at him,
mutilating more.
I hope for John the Baptist’s sake
that he was not as tough
or they had better steel.

I’m sorry, does not do the job,
I’ll go away will not undo it.
I wasn’t simply taking life,
but ruining it by degrees.
I persevered, and so did he.

He tried to breathe -
great gulps -
through his gaping mouth.
His eyes rolled round and round
like something going down a drain.
He was madness in wild motion.
His stubborn head stayed on
because I couldn’t get it off.
I could have used the hatchet
if it had occurred to me.

One hand pressed hard up on him,
the trident in my other hand        
I wrenched at it with all my strength
and empathy,
but could not pull it free.
It tore him horribly.
He lurched,
the king,
the monster tried to leap
and screamed as loud as I.
Blood spattered everywhere.
He loudly writhed his agony.    
I threw the goddamned nightmare -
frog and spear together -   
as far as I could hurl it.


  1. According to the "Gospel of Mark," Herodes' unnamed daughter danced at his birthday. "The king said to the girl: 'Ask me for whatever you want, and I will give it to you.... up to half my kingdom.' So she went out and said to her mother [Herodias]: 'What should I ask for?' She said: 'The head of John the Baptizer.' She immediately rushed in to the king and made her request, saying: 'I want you to give me right away on a platter the head of John the Baptist.' Although this deeply grieved him, the king did not want to disregard her request, because of his oaths and his guests. So the king immediately sent a bodyguard and commanded him to bring John’s head. So he went off and beheaded him in the prison and brought his head on a platter. He gave it to the girl, and the girl gave it to her mother." The daughter's name was Salome, according to Flavius Josephus, who did not connect her to the death of John (her name in Hebrew would have been Shlomiẗ, derived from the root word "shalom" [peace]). But some ancient Greek versions of "Mark" read "Herod's daughter Herodias." The Gospels of Matthew and Mark also stated Herodias was formerly the wife of Herodes' brother Herodos Philippos, but according to Josephus she had been the wife of another half-brother. The Gospels claimed that John attacked the tetrarch's marriage as contrary to Jewish law, since Herodias was Herodes' niece and his brother's wife, but Josephus said that John's public influence made Herodos fearful "lest the great influence John had over the people might put it into his power and inclination to raise a rebellion, (for they seemed ready to do any thing he should advise)" so Herodos "thought it best, by putting him to death, to prevent any mischief he might cause, and not bring himself into difficulties, by sparing a man who might make him repent of it when it would be too late. Accordingly he was sent a prisoner, out of Herod's suspicious temper, to Macherus ... and was there put to death." Josephus placed this remark in the context of Herodos' defeat in 36, which would have been well after the death of Jesus, while Mark dated John's death to 30, when Jesus began his short, two-year ministry in the wake of John's execution. However, Josephus also claimed that Herodias "divorced herself from her husband while he was alive," which would have been prior to ca. 27, thus making it possible for Jesus to have been born in the reign of Hordos the Great (as indicated in the "Gospel of Matthew") and to have died in his early 30's while Herodos reigned (as indicated by the "Gospel of Luke").

  2. Herodes "Antipater" was tetrarch of Galilee and Perea, a client state of the Roman empire. He was Hordos the Great's son by Malthace the Samaritan, while his half-brother Herodes "Archelaus," ethnarch of Samaria, Judea, and Idumea, was Hordos' son by Mariamne II. (An ethnarch ruled over 1/2 his father's realm, while a tetrarch ruled over 1/4 of it; when emperor Augustus Caesar divided Hordos' kingdom of Judea in 4 BCE, he made another half-brother, Herodes Phillippos, a son by his 5th wife Cleopatra of Jerusalem, tetrarch of Iturea and Trachonitis; he was the husband of Salome). Early in his reign Herodes Antipater married Phasaelis, the daughter of Aretas IV Philopatris of Nabatea, but while visiting Archelaus in Roma he fell in love with his brother's wife Herodias (the granddaughter of Hordos and Mariamne I; the daughter of Aristobulus IV and Berenice, the daughter of Hordos' sister Salome I); Herodias divorced Archelaus and agreed to marry Antipas after he divorced Phasaelis. (After Hordos executed Aristobulus in 7 BCE he had engaged his orphaned daughter Herodias to her half-uncle Archelaus, and their marriage supported her new husband's right to succeed his father in Judea, and was thus opposed by Hordos' oldest son Antipater II, his only child by his first wife Doris. When Hordos divorced Doris and married Mariamne I, Doris and Antipater were exiled, but recalled after Mariamne's fall, and Antipater was named first heir in 13 BCE; his first wife was his niece, Aristobulus' daughter Mariamne III, and his second wife was an unnamed first cousin of Mariamne I. He was executed in 4 BCE for plotting against his father, and Archelaus was made heir in his stead. Herodes Antipater was Hordos' oldest surviving son, but was passed over since his mother Malthace had known of Antipater II's plot and had not intervened.) Phasaelis learned of the plan and asked permission to travel to the border fortress Machaerus (where John would later be executed) and was then escorted to her father by Nabatean forces. Aretas, who disputed the border of Perea and Nabatea, declared war on Herodes Antipater and defeated him, probably in 36; emperor Tiberius ordered a Roman counter-offensive but died in 37 before it could be conducted. In 39 Herod Agrippa, Horodos' grandson Herod Agrippa I accused his uncle Herodes Antipater of conspiring against Caligula, the new emperor; Caligula exile both Herodes Antipater and Herodias to Gaul. (Agrippa was Herodius' brother, who was raised at the imperial court in Roma after his father's execution; in 37 his boyhood friend Caligula gave him rule over Gaulanitis, Auranitis, Batanaea, and Trachonitis, which his uncle Herodes Phillippos had held until his death in 34. These were supplemented by Herodes Antipater's lands. After Caligula's assassination in 41, Agrippa was instrumental in the accession of Claudius, who rewarded him with Judea and Samaria, formerly governed by Archelaus.]


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