• Karen Thorpe

The Trouble with Prophets


This poem was first published in Issue 11 (Fall 2003) of Ancient Paths literary magazine.

The Trouble with Prophets

by Karen Thorpe

Of course we are all paralyzed: we knew that from the start; we heard the spine snap but thought only: I have not broken far enough, I have not freed that other electricity of Your Voice burning up my spinal cord.

But even if we were silent, we are doomed. Someone is bound to recognize us as renegade spies in a crowd of sheep. Your papers, Sir. The firing squad at noon, the noose at dawn. Any last requests?

We would ask for a line—just a scrap— of Your Word. No one ever said that we were smart. Just stubborn.

Of course we are all in hiding, wrapping duct tape around our mouths to prevent that one impending scream: the one that has built in dreams where faceless men will break us down into unrecognizable shapes if we call out truth.

But that scream defies us, even if only at the bottom layer of our skins, the one closest to ground zero bone. It is not the sound that weakens our knees; it is the Message, the critical mass building under our tongues.

The premonition that if we do not whisper, if we do not sing Your songs, someday we will stand in a bus station

and erupt.

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