These two poems by Justin Permenter delve to the depths of the brutal actualities of human nature. “Before the Bell,” tells of a boxer whose struggles with addiction have led him to a life of despair and poverty, while “In the Shadow of Cain” speaks of the violent, war-loving nature which undermines humanities’ highest aspirations, and may ultimately devour our species and planet altogether…
by: Justin Permenter
Before The Bell
Before the bell, there was hunger,
An empty ache in the deepest pit of the soul.
Body, mind, and spirit– ravenous, devouring themselves through appetites insatiable, a seven year suicide in slow motion.
Before the bell, there was loneliness,
The anguish of the abandoned.
Milestones and memories cast aside like refuse, the silent sorrow of young life left unwitnessed.
Before the bell, there was solitude,
Bitter nights in back alleys, fingers stiff with cold.
The misery of the beggar submersed in the unrelenting stench of poverty, numb from afflictions far more insidious than frostbite.
But the bell was always there, waiting, watching,
Calling out for someone to answer it.
Many times he had fled its summons
And turned back to the chemical devils of the street.
The parade of ghosts clanking their chains and shackles through empty parking lots and subway stations, singing their hellsong in voices shrill and inhuman.
He ran until the echoes faded to whispers,
Tiny fragments of sound lingering in the distance.
Beckoning him back through the darkness, a tether in the pale fog of midnight, guiding him back to where the bell waited for him.
Its patience, infinite.
Its power to compel, irresistible.
Its importance, immeasurable beyond all reckoning.
Before the bell, there was nothing.
No fear, no pain,
No pity or grief or uncertainty.
There was only this moment.
The bell had rung again, and this time,
He had come to answer it.
And God help any man who stood in his way.
In the Shadow of Cain
I am the grief of limbless children
The hush of shallow graves
The shrapnel buried in cathedral stone
I dance among the ruins
The corpses piled high
And lay their broken bodies at my throne
With cold arachnid eyes
And a Great White’s gaping grin
I devour flesh and souls with equal glee
I stalk through corporate boardrooms
And hallowed halls of state
I conquer over land and sky and sea
Television is my temple
The cinema– my church
I am worshipped all across the World Wide Web
Across the rippling airwaves
I unleash my siren song
Which beckons with a strength that does not ebb
In stadiums they praise me
With anthems and with prayer
Offering patriots’ paeans to blood spilled in my name
I beseech you from the pulpit
‘Take up your father’s cross!’
For he has sinned, and you must do the same
So rally to your banners
Strike fast against the foe
And spill his blood amidst the smoke and steel
For no feast can sate my hunger
I must feed and feed once more
Until the very Earth becomes my meal
Justin Permenter is a writer of poetry, short fiction, novels, and screenplays from Corinth, Texas. Whenever he is not writing — which is far too often — he operates undercover as a college admissions counselor and recruiter. His work has previously been published in Hypertext Review, Scarlet Leaf Review, 365 tomorrows, and Literary Yard. A poem entitled “Hounds of the Lord” will be appearing in the upcoming July ’21 edition of Spectral Realms, edited by renowned Lovecraft scholar S.T. Joshi