Non nostrum inter vos tantas componere lites.
–Vergil, Eclogues


We meet again upon this hill
but now we climb it with a will,
when only last time, when we met,
our breath was easier to get.

I see your flock has grown greatly
over what you had just lately.
Oh, you’ll die rich, but what’s it matter?
Will wings of faith make your mound flatter?


My soul is tended by a priest
whose duty it is to see to the least
among his flock as it is ours
to see to our sheep during their short hours.

FS: Much as you’d see to your fine flock
piece by piece on the butcher’s block.
SS: We have had this argument before.
FS: Ho! Then, my friend, I’ll say no more.
SS: Why do you plague me with dark thoughts?
You ought to think—
FS: Ought me no oughts
because you’re a serious man who hurries
from hill to hill, enjoying worries
that do not matter, and I’m a herder
who knows how to laugh in the face of murder,
for what would the murderer be taking
and what would the victim be foresaking?
SS: You were a foolish fellow when
we last met, and are again.
FS: As indeed are you, who think you see
your way out in a fantasy,
in buying a pass to the eternal
from a priest whose heart’s an infernal
machine of greed and mumbo-jumbo.
Did he have you drink his magic gumbo?
SS: Of dragon-bones. How did you know?
FS: I know many shepherds who go
to these purveyors of clipped toenails
and what you will. The game never fails
to take them in more than they do meat.
SS: I’m sensible.
FS: But they defeat
good sense because they offer what
good sense just simply hasn’t got—
essence of Self, the thing we love,
outside, beyond the body, and above
that body’s gross and greedy needs
which cause so many dirty deeds.
Your health is good. You need not worry.
SS: I do not worry.
FS: You heave and hurry,
and with your staff you vault the hill
as if to leap to heaven. Will
nor wealth can keep you whole.
SS: And when they tug and pull and toll
the bell for you, where will you go?
FS: What can we see? What can we know?
Go nowhere and become the sand,
a stuff run through the little hand
of an infant on a wide wide shore.
Like you, my friend, I’ll be no more.
SS: Unbeliever!
FS: Self-deceiver!
SS: Your little flock is moving on.
FS: And I shall follow and be gone.
SS: Farewell, poor doubting soul!
FS: Farewell, and keep you whole!
SS: Next year, perhaps—upon this hill.
FS: If flesh is quick and has a will.

About E.M. Schorb

E.M. Schorb has published several collections of poetry. Time and Fevers is a 2007 recipient of an Eric Hoffer Award for Excellence in Independent Publishing. Another collection, Murderer's Day, was awarded the Verna Emery Poetry Prize and published by Purdue University Press. His poetry has appeared in: The Sewanee Review, Southwest Review, The Yale Review, The Chicago Review, Carolina Quarterly, The Virginia Quarterly Review, The American Scholar, Stand (England), and the New York Quarterly, among others. And, I’m happy to add, The Eloquent Atheist.

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