The Invitation to Universal Peace*

Poem by Jan D. Hodge

Then said Scheherazade:

 

Voice-of-the-Dawn, who was

known for his wisdom, one

morning was walking when

suddenly—Fox!—

certainly one of those

aleatorical

meetings not pleasing to

wandering cocks.

 

Frantically flapping, he

managed a tentative

refuge on top of a

rotten old fence,

where he probed possible

extricability

from a dilemma so

parlously tense.

 

With the approach of morning, Scheherazade

fell silent.  But when the seven-hundred-and-

ninety-sixth night had come, she resumed:

 

"Peace be upon you, my

brother," said Fox. When the

cock answered nothing, he

added, "You choose

not to address me. Your

inaffability

hurts, for I come but to

bring you good news.

 

"Lion and Eagle have

issued an edict that

all of the beasts, whether

feathered or furred,

live in benevolent

amiability.

I’ve been appointed to

carry the word.

 

"Tiger and antelope,

jackel and basilisk,

hawk and hyena and

pigeon and dove—

all shall inhabit a

paradisaical

garden of peace and of

brotherly love.

 

"Old animosities

must be forgotten and

any recidivist

will be condemned."

Fox’s rhetorical

armamentarium

being depleted, his

fancy was stemmed.                  

 

Still hearing nothing, he

snapped, "And unless you em-

brace me, the fiat will

not be fulfilled.

Peace must become the new

universality

even if half of us

have to be killed."

 

During these palpable

illogicalities

Voice-of-the-Dawn was too

anxious to crow.

His mind was otherwhere,

preoccupiedly

mulling a method to

outfox his foe.

 

"Pardon, my friend. I meant

no impoliteness, but

as you were talking," he

answered at last,

"I was distraught by some

unspecifiable

something approaching and

coming on fast."

 

"Is it a greyhound?" asked

Fox with a tremor. "It

might be . . . I think so . . . a

beast of that breed."

"That’s disconcerting, for

incomprehensibly

he wasn’t thought of when

peace was decreed.

 

"Brother, I leave you. That

pimp of a greyhound can

never be trusted." With

that he was gone.

Mocking the fox’s own

pseudo-sincerity

proved the salvation of

Voice-of-the-Dawn.

 

Then pronounced Shahryar:

 

Ah, the unspeakable

ideological

balderdash only the

shameless commit!

Praise to Allah when such

self-contradictory

cunning is routed by

wisdom and wit!

 

*adapted from The Thousand Nights  and One Night,

  trans. Powys Mathers from the French of J. C. Mardrus

  [New York:St. Martin’s, 1972], III, 515-18.