Seven Deadly Sins

James Ensor, Seven Deadly Sins, 1904


Sadness, sloth of ages, eats away

at the hinges of the human soul

each Friday when the will rots

down to almost nothing and

fear gives way to apathetic

indolence or even insolence!

Insufficient love, the blue hymn

of the Inca dove, the snake pit

gall bladder goat song

of the squeamish or faint

of heart. Those, uh, Gulf War

military men who turned

into spineless politicians

of poor caliber, unable to act

or even argue in the desert-

heavy drowsiness of sleep.


The Northeast power grid is down as darkness falls

tonight in Ottawa, New York City, and Detroit.

Not on the Brooklyn Bridge

under an August, blackout moon.

For there's no looting on the boulevards

where a bird smacks a windowpane,

falls at the foot of a man inside, who's doused

in Dead Sea smelling salts and jasmine.

It's Greed's doorway--the guy inside,

the leader of a shadow government,

dreams cigars and Black Sea caviar,

white Wyoming wine, Halliburton perks

and flying bread-and-butter. Palm oil, hair

pomade, pomegranate love. And he takes

whatever he touches with his Midas fingertips,

the bent and crippled children of the marshes

of the Tigris, all of them turned to gold and chocolate.


O green-eyed monster, who mocks

the meat it feeds upon: can't you

try a little love and kindness? I

have seen what envy's wrought:

big nations brought to their knees

by wheedling sycophants. Two

ships lost at sea and I watched

with glee from one, a tanker

called Condoleezza Rice, as a

poodle thrashed in icy waters off

the Azores, in an undulating mass

of hockey gloves as the cargo ship

went down, its unluck my only joy.

For I spy a Spanish compass--just

some of the flotsam floating down

the coast to Cuba, to greener grass.


A foggy mist has covered all the

land, where skulls and bones lay

scattered in the dust, Texas White

House burning, all good deeds undone,

America wakes to its own infamy,

the devastation of the cypress of

Chapultepec. Full of road rage, his

spleen spitting black tobacco juice,

Wrath stands blinking in the dark.

You know he has no government of

his hands or tongue, pale ash

angel of the Apocalypse, a blush

of coral on his skin--he seethes fat

onto the fires of Francis of Assisi,

he can't unpack the words that patience

needs to properly entomb the dead.

Instead, against a door he bangs his head.


Gluttony is government land grab,

gun money, galaxies, Goethe's Faust

and Hamlet's ghost. Golan Heights,

goose grease, gooseberry pie,

Greta Garbo, Galapagos and groats,

G.D. Searle Pharmaceuticals gone

for the gravy train. Golden thighs,

Graceland, Quatar, Gulf of Aqaba,

green mayonnaise, Great Dismal Swamp,

gib cat, gallowglass, guillotine gift horse

and Giotto's rose, Goya's Disasters of War,

Gog, Magog, and Flibbertigibit. Guinea,

Gelsenkirchen, Ivory Coast, the glutton

sweats beads of vodka, drools gelatin

Charlotte Russe, as he leaves off dinner

like a bloated, purple plum, ready to explode.


Lust means joy in German. In Arabic,

in Aramaic, even in Japanese it's

more like apples of Sodom. Like baby's breath,

bad bottled water, like love's labor's lost,

more like the phantom cat of our sexual

appetites, the Golem of Prague, the fish

winds off Honolulu. O hurricane eye of Isabel!

O succubi of Babylon! A wolf wades the

marshes of Eden, where moonflowers suck

moonlight, red dust, oil lust seeping into

sand, the shriveled, skeleton tree in a bone-

chip parking lot, where teens smoke weed

by the Euphrates, and Jesus drives a pickup truck

and tries to drive him off the road, out and away beyond

the garden, the half-dead tree of knowledge

that bends from the weight of its knowing fruit.


Pride loiters at the gates of Limbo.

Bird-man of Alcatraz, brilliant xenophobe,

hull and husk of Oedipus. Wandering blind

through noontime traffic, a Quebecois MP,

a DMZ assassin, a Stasi spy who eyes a falling

morningstar. Ash-fingered, cross-weary,

Grand Inquisitor, martyr of the First Crusade:

your bloody lips are shut.

Le terrorisme, you choke-cry like a

strutting peacock, et un fait accompli.

Just try living on fifty rupees! Try to dupe

the public libraries! Every dark

Arab is your enemy, every beachhead is

Guantanamo. While your cronies

cower on the dry-boned earth, you singe

your wings in the vault of the sun

and plummet to the sea, to a Cherokee patriot

nation, to the great whale that swallows you.