The Dinner Guest

Among the woodlands and green meadows
there are hints of paradise: the weave of roads
I walk upon, the rivers glinting in the sun,
the reeds whisper which way I should go
and flies sit high up in the trees and sing.

But sometimes I have work to do,
as when I’m hurried to a house
where an old man lies among the candles,
his puffy soul still closed inside his corpse,
like a mindless face floating on the dark.

They seat me at a laden table and bid me eat
dishes that reek of cost and opulence,
thick with the fatty gravies of the dead one’s sins:
I suck away layers of softest skin like masks,
I swallow the disguises of his soul.

When I’m tight with wickedness they shove me out,
as though any dog could take on sins unscathed.
But I walk the briars and wildways for a day,
until I find a scarecrow in some lonely field
and just beneath its raggy arse I shit

the plump and steaming coil of that man’s sins.
I watch sweet flies descend to lay their eggs,
knowing maggots soon will bathe and suckle there.
When I’m long gone those grubs will turn to flies
and sins will rise like prayers upon the winds.

With heaven in my eyes I walk these roads
and though I’m shunned none will do me harm,
for all must take the sacrament of death,
that sustains me like the soft preserving hand
of my Lord who is a voice among the reeds.