Ambrose Bierce

(24 June 1842 - 26 December 1913 / Horse Cave Creek, Ohio)

In Upper San Francisco - Poem by Ambrose Bierce

I heard that Heaven was bright and fair,
And politicians dwelt not there.

'Twas said by knowing ones that they
Were in the Elsewhere-so to say.

So, waking from my last long sleep,
I took my place among the sheep.

I passed the gate-Saint Peter eyed
Me sharply as I stepped inside.

He thought, as afterward I learned,
That I was Chris, the Unreturned.

The new Jerusalem-ah me,
It was a sorry sight to see!

The mansions of the blest were there,
And mostly they were fine and fair;

But O, such streets!-so deep and wide,
And all unpaved, from side to side!

And in a public square there grew
A blighted tree, most sad to view.

From off its trunk the bark was ripped
Its very branches all were stripped!

An angel perched upon the fence
With all the grace of indolence.

'Celestial bird,' I cried, in pain,
'What vandal wrought this wreck? Explain.'

He raised his eyelids as if tired:
'What is a Vandal?' he inquired.

'This is the Tree of Life. 'Twas stripped
By Durst and Siebe, who have shipped

'The bark across the Jordan-see?
And sold it to a tannery.'

'Alas,' I sighed, 'their old-time tricks!
That pavement, too, of golden bricks

'They've gobbled that?' But with a scowl,
'You greatly wrong them,' said the fowl:

''Twas Gilleran did that, I fear-
Head of the Street Department here.'

'What! what!' cried I-'you let such chaps
Come here? You've Satan, too, perhaps.'

'We had him, yes, but off he went,
Yet showed some purpose to repent;

'But since your priests and parsons filled
The place with those their preaching killed'

(Here Siebe passed along with Durst,
Psalming as if their lungs would burst)

'He swears his foot no more shall press
('Tis cloven, anyhow, I guess)

'Our soil. In short, he's out on strike
But devils are not all alike.'

Lo! Gilleran came down the street,
Pressing the soil with broad, flat feet!


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Poem Submitted: Friday, September 28, 2012



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