Fall Of The Church Of Ussher

“In the beginning, God created heaven and earth. The beginning of time, according to this chronology, occurred at the beginning of the night which preceded the 23rd of October in the year 710 of the Julian period. [i.e. 4004 BC]”
          —Bishop James Ussher

At dawn, once again,
Darwin’s finches,
the Geospizinae,
whirl out of the sky
like a contagion of hail
sent by the Archfiend
to assault the chief symbol
of the bishop’s eminence:
the towering cathedral that
like most such structures
represents Power & Glory
all across the kingdom.

Closer to tanagers than any sort
of finch, however,
the Galapagos birds are relentless
in their fury,
exploding out of the upper
reaches, beyond the tallowed light,
their beaks sized and shaped
for all manner of tasks
except perhaps prayer:
draining the color from the stained glass
as if it were nectar,
chivying free loose pieces of mortar
for nesting material,
drilling the wood of the great blond beams
that overlie nave and chancel,
searching for breakfast.
Most definitely, these are not seraphic wings
that flutter and detonate, filling
the air with unliturgical sound; rather,
it’s as if an army of Boschian grotesques
has been set loose within; an anti-Heaven
or base aviary.

Meanwhile, their corrosive droppings
splatter the pews and statuary
like poisonous graffiti (a whole subset
of which reads “Deus mori”),
pinions fall like manna
of little sustenance,
and not even incense or beeswax
can purge the ammoniac smell.

In the aftermath of each visit,
some attempt is made
to restore the church, to shore up
its hallowed edifice. According
to genealogical logs and the carbon-14
of Scripture, after all, it is close
to six millennia old and therefore
not about to vanish from the public
consciousness any time soon.
But clearly some of its cracks
are beyond superficial.

—Robert Borski