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Mark Leigh Gibbons


The Seven Deadly Sins

Anger

Envy

Covetousness

Gluttony

Lust

Pride



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The Seven Deadly Sins

Bosch chose to paint them on a table top
surrounding the radiant eye of God.
The ideal dinner table for a king
provides four place settings at the corners:
the four last things set out like dinner plates.
Death, judgment, hell and paradise balance
the dancing, deadly seven circling there.

Anger

Brooding hatches no eggs
when this dropping weight
lands on its "object."

Smoldering offers no warmth
from these black coals
hidden behind icy smiles.

Venting winds up stuffing
the room with tense clouds
that yield no moisture.

Tempered against time
the wise sword cuts
only to harvest.

Surely it must take time to sin?

Envy

The highborn intestate widow
of a billionaire
spreads confusion
like so many pearls
before the heiress and her heir:
Her confused profusion
of wills and codicils
curls the toenails
and spoils the sleep-
less dreams of barristers
used to drooling
at the gilded banisters
of her coy indecision.

Earlier still,
a bisexual emperor
deifies, marries and couples
with his favorite horse.
Armies attempt to topple
his arbitrary furor,
but dealers at the Bourse
arrange that the people
approve of his ideas.

Passionate anger leads the son
of butchered peasants
to inculcate events
and shiver the timbers
of merely rumored continents.

History parades the colors
of her victory:
the old story of a legend made
inspires the poets
to adapt the forms
to latest outrage.

Listen! Scholars are mumbling
in the libraries
fast on the scent of truth.
Glib-lipped madmen geniuses
in their mannered youth
dangle irresistible briberies -
immortality, happiness and honor
at starving maws of masses.
How can they help themselves but bite?
The new God avenges wrongs with Rites.


Covetousness

To make the prime aspect of a thing's existence
the fact that you own it,
finally a metaphysician,
you lick your chops in the library
learning of new things to seize.
Since nothing is sufficient,
not even the wanting,
you can never shop around,
never select, and must remain
tasteless in indiscriminate rapacity.

I saw you yesterday
apoplectic with indecision
in the city's center,
immobile, confusedly theoretical
like the point of an equation
where a formerly stable factor
jumps to an infinity
we can never quite grasp.

You are the dreamiest avidity
and would starve the other vices
except that they would then die
and you could no longer own them.


Gluttony

The wise admitted glutton knows
he can't devour everything.
But can, with perseverance, taste it all;
so places bits of food
in his jaded maw
like a terminal patient
gently enervating,
mindlessly scratching
an exquisite sore
and leading those nerve ends
up to the gorge of convulsion
only to stop at the final tic.
He reads recipes while eating
to remind himself of the gross inadequacy
in any single choice of dish.
An earthy, indeed earthly sin:
the only one visited by
physical retribution
this side of the tomb. And,
since most religions wrap up
their rituals in a kind of meal,
the most oddly spiritual of transgressions.
God is always asking to be eaten;
always tempting us toward this amiable, gracious and modestly unoriginal sin.
Oh taste and see!

Lust

Often aroused by hangover
or slight lingering illness,
this regular but unannounced visitor
takes over the whole house -
not just bedrooms - but especially
corridors, closets, attics, pantry,
plus, of course, any cars standing idle
or horses shifting weight
from side to side in steaming stalls.
Don't count on it responding
to invitations, though.
It leads and has forgotten
how to follow, and, as you know,
is a reliable democrat - in the old sense.
"Please," it breathes, "No social distinctions."
And finally in keenest pitch
wants no distinctions of any kind at all.
No pointed tastes - aesthetic or cerebral -
just the chance to merge;
to let us know that professing
a distinction between mind and body
indicates a complete lack of either.

Look! There it is: a birch limb
with a peculiar bump, a slice
of calves liver,
the bells signaling consecration,
the football, a toy Indian on horseback,
the backseat, a groan across the hall,
that bar of soap, a sleeping St. Bernard,
the damp bathing suit,
a frosty beer, wrestling teams,
part-time help, the baby's little feet,
your mother's wet bath towel,
your father's mustache.

Pride

You were standing arms akimbo
On the highest pyramid's top
And forgot you had climbed there.

Though it had sprinkled all day
The clouds now parted;
An ample, golden beam
Contained you alone -
Twenty-three, tanned, robust
Coasting gracefully
On a mood elevator.

The Valley of the Gods lolled south
Beyond the Street of the Dead.
Looking down on the Pyramid
Of the moon, with what we call
Your smile of timeless self-regard,
You raised your hands toward the sky.

Later, back in the city,
At a cafe, over drinks,
You explained it was then
You understood
There was no such thing as sin.

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