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Shaggy God Story

by
July 2021, no. 433

Shaggy God Story

by
July 2021, no. 433

i.m. Les Murray 1938–2019, after a line by Frigyes Karinthy

Dear god-herd, golden god-horde, Lord 
Protectors of the meek and green-fed:
when we came in from the cold
ten thousand winters back, the terms
of your contract (unsigned since gods
were not yet literate) seemed safely,
fashionably fair trade: a shorter
for a sweeter life, a good life spent
in clover, free from drought, hunger
and the terrorists of steppe and taiga:
cave lions by day, dire wolves by night,
giggling hyenas by random horror.
We knew each monster species
by racing heart except the slowest:
old age, which also plays with its food,
whether left behind the horizon
or lost in the forest, blunt-horned
and toothless and desperately lonely.

Was the fine print also unspoken?
We agreed, sort of, or forgot to say no,
to the repayment terms of your upfront
business investment: the cash-flow
of morning-milk deposits at long-term
fixed rates, but interest only, the capital
mortgaged against our each sole asset,
a debt to be paid in pounds of flesh
on a due date beyond the sum of all fears,
all imaginations. It seemed a lifetime
away, or never, whichever came last,
from this side of the fence, where
the cud of time was chewed as slowly
as childhood, regurgitated each morning,
and chewed again, and swallowed again
through the single stomach of the day,
the four stomachs of the year, until
one sudden day, this day, the different
day, we find ourselves at the gate
of a terrible separation, and what looked
like protection just looks like a racket.

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