Enus – a poem by George Elliott Clarke

Enus

Poet’s preface:

No poetry is more powerful than that of The Scriptures, all of
em. I find it intriguing that all of the gods/goddesses (capitalize
as you like) speak to Believers’ hearts in poetic verse and
song. In leafing through the shorter books in The Book of
Mormon, I was intrigued by the audible anxiety felt by some
of the scribes/prophets in their relations–as putative Christians–
to Indigenous peoples of the Americas. I’ve tried to echo that
angst in my re-voicing, so to speak, of “Enus” (“Enos” in the
original).

Enus

1. To win Redemption, I bled out a crying—
or cried out a bleeding—
hymn to God.

2. Adrift in wilderness, the jungle of pines
and willows,
I stayed alive by stalking bears,
smashing in their skulls,
slurping the smeared meat of trout, salmon,
or blueberries crushed into honey.

3. While I was outside caves,
away from homefires,
hunting now bears, then deer
(venison-on-the-hoof),
that’s when struck home
this fiery lust for Redemption.

4. I fell, screeching to Heaven,
from my knees.

5. A voice thundered back. Had to be God’s!
I know so: because God is Truth.

6. His Mercy unpent my scalding tears.
Thus was I cleansed—purged—of Sin.

7. But God doomed “transgressors” to Turmoil!
All my fellow and sister citizens—
denizens—
of caves,
and our theologians, cross-legged, in tents.

8. Again I pitched—and inked—my voice
to rise stark against the sun,
dark against the moon,
“Lawd, God, spare we Lamanites!”

9. But God directed me to preach—prophetic,
apostolic—
to the Nénuphars.

10. But these clans—reforming themselves—
could not help me reform the Lamanites,
who are, they spit out, “too wild,
too often naked, too violent
(tearing out their enemies’ hearts
and gulping down the blood);
too indifferent as to whether they gobble shit
or blood-sausage;
too willing to spoon up worms, ants, maggots,
for food.”

11. Well, it’s damnable Truth!
We Lamanites like too much to sleep in tents,
with the wind whiffling through;
or before campfires in a cave;
we like our buckskin loincloths,
setting us always free to breed—
whenever Desire strikes!

12. We do like to shave our heads à la Mohawk,
and hurl spears and launch arrows,
and eat raw whatever we kill,
whenever we got no time to cook.

13. I understand well the easygoing Nénuphars—
soft as pussywillows, delicate as lilies.
They’re agrarian—
ranchers of cattle, farmers of grain,
vintners of grape.

14. They’re lily-wristed, panty-waisted, pretty people,
who we Lamanites do love to set a-squealing
like pigs….

15. In contrast, we’re unbowed, unbowing types:
Mortal Apollos, Dianas,
stone-carvers, iron-workers, flame-wielders.

16. Still, God’s right to charge me
to warn my compatriots,
of our eventual Slavery, Exile, Genocide,
if we heed not The Decalogue!

17. I take up this mission, for, post-Death,
I’ll prove immortal,
and lounge in God’s Carrera-marble palaces.

[Vulcano (Italia) 21 juin mmxvii]

An “unbaptized African Baptist outta Nova Scotia,
Canada, 1960-issue”, George Elliott Clarke teaches English
at the University of Toronto. Once a prof at Duke and Harvard,
he has books in Chinese, Italian, and Romanian translation,
and was Poet Laureate of Toronto (2012-2015) and Poet
Laureate of Canada (2016 & 2017).

 

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