Belshazzar’s Feast by Ruth Aylett

These are the right men: bonuses
nannies and secretaries, fast cars
designer suits. Masters of electronic
transactions, bestriding the stars.

Silver candelabra stroke warm tones
into the white napery and haute cuisine,
jump glinting riches off the gold plate,
bathe well-fed faces pink with content.

Belshazzar gives the after dinner speech
about hard-working families incentivized
by tax cuts, aspiring to riches. Then
that hand appears, more than life-size.

A hand that writes with quick certain
movements, holding its non-pen
as if a screw-driver, thick fingers,
square nails, with dirt under them.

A buzz of puzzlement at its words,
carved into the flock wall-paper:
weigh, number, divide. “Who knows
what that means?” Belshazzar enquires.

A young immigrant waiter translates.
“You’ve pressed too long on the poor”
“More of us than there are of you”.
“We’ll not fight each other any more.”

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