Early actual civilizations,
The kinds of systems where big gods, big men
First got their opportunity to rise
Above the hoots, jokes, and ostracisms,
Safe from the coordinated murder
Arranged by the villagers but exposed
Now to warfare, armies, and each other,
Liked to drag around big rocks, bake small bricks,
And set up their forts, towns, and monuments
Immune to mere winds, which they claimed victims
Of storm gods with whom they identified,
Worshipping the lightning that still wrecked them,
The dreadful thunder from far-off mountains,
The frequent floods that surprised and drowned them,
But mocking that old dragon, that snake wind
To which new stone monuments seemed immune.
They are all dead now, thousands of years gone
And their gods with them, although their notion
To divide the star-drenched heavens between
Shining winners and weak, whining losers
Survives above tells archaeologists
Dig and abandon ahead of fresh storms
Of metal combatants, fire from the skies,
Bodies bursting to embrace God's own bombs,
And the winds still whistle around the stones
Only a civilization could raise,
Only more civilizations can raze,
Only time herself ever wholly change
Into something other than a poet's
Tropes, a prophet's rage, a magpie's treasure.
Everything's confused with its opposite
Sooner or later: sooner for later,
Narrative for poetry, death for birth,
Ungovernable winds for the gods meant
To demonstrate our governance of them.
Long since the boasts of the first kings were lost,
Smashed, or translated by their conquerors,
Defoe thought there was more of God in wind
Than in all the rest of God's creation:
Truly, "we never enquire after God
In those Works of Nature which depending
Upon the Course of Things are plainly seen
And easily demonstrated," he wrote.
"But where we find Nature is defective
In her discovery, where we can see
Effects but cannot reach their Causes, there
Nature herself desires to direct us
To it, to end rational Enquiry,
And resolve it into Speculation:
Nature plainly refers us beyond her
Self, to the mighty Hand of Infinite
Power . . . Original of all Causes."
Poor, in-debt dissenter, like my parents,
He had a point he meant to make on faith
About our exposure to the weather
As a means of bringing us to the truth.
Satirist of real power, he boasted
Of collecting fair testimonials
About the Great Storm's rage, real storm coming.
We are weak and gods are our reminders.