Why Servetus Had to Die
“Goddamned reprobate!” Pappy Cal hollers, huffing,
pumping like a preacher, chasing the speckled hen back
towards a damp afternoon in the sweltering tarpaper coop.
Thus is inaugurated the Twelfth Kansas Revival.
Up the hill, in the big house, stacks of saucers
rest dust-free in the gleaming oak breakfront,
their cups, hanging up above on brass hooks,
shiver like silent ranks of martyred heretics.
The saucers wait impatiently for the science fiction fad
that will make headlines of their humble designation,
while Bartholomew -- the one we dubbed “Weasel” -- regards
his broken cap gun and his dead hamster with nostalgic
empathy, and stoically returns to composing his memoir.
But no, that’s too easy. Those saucers wait to be dropped
or thrown -- broken -- for the release of their voices;
for their kiln-hardened bitterness at long last to be spoken;
edgy and cutting; musical, strident, impassioned, verboten.
This was all material for a novel never written
by a woman named Robinson, though its composition
was predestined according to sometimes reliable
communicants of Welch’s and Wonder Bread,
at least one of whom was the humble possessor
of an alliteratively tolling Doctor of Divinity degree.
But that was in Idaho, not this flat Kansan Oz
peopled by Munchkins in faded bib overalls;
not this Ozian Kansas plagued by farmers that fly.
And returning we see Cal has choked that poor chicken,
unable to shove it back in where the eggs all lay nested.
That persnickety hen, although wings were provided,
refused finally to flap them, to soar towards safety.
Thus did she die: a victim of scruples; sacrificed to her pride.
Pappy Cal we now see flinging saucers at Bartholomew,
for the Weasel prefers to make cryptic hen scratches
in his little red notebook -- his stiff pet there for company --
than to scratch in the dust, so to sweat out a livelihood.
The Weasel might well have had Robinson’s sympathy --
but son, this ain’t Idaho. So, Bartholomew tucked and he
squealed as he rolled away, while a flying saucer chorus
in their pieces and shards took up counterpoint harmonies.
After sundown the porcelain was swept up and discarded.
We had a fine supper of roast chicken with gravy.
We then sat in silence and listened most solemnly
while Bartholomew read from his Renaissance diary.
Duty done, Pappy Cal snored like Noah in his library.