|The Peaceable Kingdom
(after Edward Hicks)
| Laura Lee Washburn
He saw the same disaster wherever he looked,
not what he painted as lush green flora,
but the world golden, and tinged with blood.
If we have a God, he thought, he must
be lame of imagination, limited by human greed
and passions, hungering for meat and land.
Spider traps and murders flies, the lamb
bleeds for coat or gyro, for wolf or coyote.
Toddlers are mauled by neglected packs
of guarding dogs. Women break down
at the hands and members of punishing men.
The large cat tears the oxen down. Black
bear mauls against fear. The horns
of the bull are meant to rip what flesh
might need to bleed. Invaders offer treaties
smeared with trails of starving people.
Ships sink with bellies of stolen gold. Lions
offer us their thorned paws, waiting the chance
to take us in their teeth. This must be
what he knew of God and man, why else
place the child beside the staring leopard,
but to remind us how we're only all
the world allows us be, warlike and mean,
turning love around to anger, a culture
praising death by gun and triumph
as what triumphs, not by a paradise
strived for, near attained, not by what deserves,
not by trying past what hurts,
not by grief, but by kicking, bones, and pain.