Poem: The prophet in a box

This first poem of 2020, composed this morning, may herald a more fertile year. For in Australia, fire fertilises the forest.

The prophet in a box

The feared red skies recede before grey rain.
The prophet sits alone, glum and empty,
In the cold steel box of his own making.

History is like that, they say –
Of your own making, not though your choosing.
But this new year, the prophet sings alone,

Knowing he has made his own prison.
Still, on the walls he scratches out
The dirges of his dark vision.

The sham impeachment breaks the republic.
The extra-judicial assassination kills the peace.
The derangement of reporting murders the truth.

All the words of all the gods
Are compressed into a zettabyte
That holds every secret and not one mystery.

Fire will destroy the forests where we camped.
Fire will destroy the beaches where we dreamt.
Fire will destroy the libraries where we survive.

Zarathustra will walk, charred and silenced,
From the stands of burning mountain ash
Into the forgotten city

There he will cry to the crowd,
What does deep midnight’s voice contend?
He will shout, and wave, and drown.

But no-one is listening.
No-one can hear outside his sound-proofed box.
No-one can see the tears stain his hair shirt.

Image source: Fires outside Mallacoota 2019, ABC

By Jeff Rich

Jeff Rich writes poetry and many forms of prose - this blog, history, essays, fiction, briefings, even kind questioning tweets. His podcast - The Burning Archive - talks about all things history and culture from the unusual perspective of a very minor government official. He lives in Melbourne, Australia.

3 replies on “Poem: The prophet in a box”

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