Uncle Mortimer had a theory there’s nothing sacred

which he set out to prove.

Ate his way like a weevil

through family business law church the Masons and three

wives before I got to know him.

I don’t trust you

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Uncle Mortimer I said and he said I had good reason,

laughing and returning my pewter ashtray from

his pocket to the table.  Don’t turn your back he said

I like you.

Then get your hand out of my crotch I said,

Is nothing sacred?

I suppose that you’re inviolate?

Very nearly I said at least selective.

Values said

Uncle Mortimer philosophically are all

subjective you show me any real reason to

refrain from anything or for that matter to

do anything I’ll show you a game the rules

like fences in your head Blake’s mind-forged manacles

he said blowing his nose on a flag he carried for that

purpose.

I couldn’t live without those fences I told him.

More likely you couldn’t die I have nothing to die for.

People are always making contracts you poets for instance

twist everything you want to say to make it fit

some arbitrary form people are always building

altars to sacrifice their Isaacs on people

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are always organizing clubs to keep other

people out of always drawing boundaries

saying MINE well property is theft if you

really want to end war crime racism injustice

just remember one man’s sacred cow is another’s

beefsteak.

It won’t work I said.

Well you just tell me

What does? You think if we just keep on pulling up

and putting in fences we’ll finally get it right?

Well

what about your theory nothing’s sacred? I

asked him.

What about it?

I mean suppose it’s wrong

suppose I went over to that bureau drawer and pulled

out something sacred and you saw it and knew right then

it really was?

He watched me warily.

Don’t worry

I said I wouldn’t I don’t trust you and besides

the bureau drawer’s not where I keep it but suppose.

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You’re lying! he screamed

and clutched his sacred theory close.

I don’t trust you! he screamed

and fled into the night.

[Judson Jerome was an internationally-renown poet whose work was featured in many literary journals at home and abroad.  For years, he wrote a column on poetry for Writer’s Digest.  In 1973, he retired to live with his family in a rural commune, from which he continued to be involved in free-lance writing, speaking and publishing through Trunk Press.  Jerome died in 1991.  The featured poem in the public domain, is published with Jerome’s permission, May 1977.]