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He Considers Not the Lilies but Their Excellencies

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Thin gruel, shallow graves, whiskey watered down,
the ne’er-do-well and good-for-nothing crowd
of cornerboys and gobshites were among
Argyle’s manifold perturbations.
Worse still, the episcopal vexations:
their excellencies, eminence and graces,
red-cassocked dandies and mitered wankers,
the croziered posers in their bishoprics
with their Easter duties and Peter’s pence,
their ledgers full of mortal, venial sins—
keepers of the till and tally, bankers
of indulgences and dispensations;
their bulls and bans and excommunications,
nothing but contumely and bamboozles.
For all their vestiture, rings and unctions,
preaching to bishops, like farting at skunks, was
nothing but a mug’s game to the sin-eater,
so in earshot of them mum is what he kept.
Still, he thought there might be something to it:
a life apart from this life where the souls
long dead and gone were neither dead nor gone.
Some days he felt so happily haunted,
by loving ghosts and gods upholding him.
Some days he felt entirely alone.


Source: Poetry (February 2011)

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This poem originally appeared in the February 2011 issue of Poetry magazine

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He Considers Not the Lilies but Their Excellencies

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