Satirist Ambrose Bierce, author of The Devil's Dictionary
Satirist Ambrose Bierce, author of The Devil’s Dictionary


The nymphs that sing at midnight? Just the breeze.
The sprites within the water? Just the sun.
The hand of retribution? Just disease.
The miracles of ancients? Never done.
And evolution? Darwin had no clue.
And Eden? Zion? Shangri La? A glade.
Rebirth and resurrection? Each untrue.
The martyr and his flawless faith? Mislaid.
And what of visions? Dreams for all they’re worth.
The followers of sacred tenets? Slaves.
The mystery of creation? Merely birth.
Is there a hell? A heaven? Only graves.
Is there a devil? No. A god? Perhaps…
And what of love? A momentary lapse.

© William Keller, 2014


This is a disgruntled piece that would rattle the mind with too many questions, if not for one thing — the commanding presence of iambic pentameter! I’m not one to usually notice meter (as I become so involved in meaning), but here the questions are so predominant — the first of every line — that they could become overwhelming — but the steady meter of each line carries the reader to the end. To me, that makes the questions seem less trying, like a child asking one right after the other — “Why? Where? What? When?” — ad infinitum until the adult wants to pull out his hair!

The negative answers add to the “curmudgeon” feel of the piece, painting a near caricature. If a pilgrim had climbed a mountain to ask these questions of the ‘wise one’ at the top, he would find one ornery oracle indeed!

“Contrarian” is the perfect title for two reasons — (1) for the negative answers, and (2) for the way answers work against the title — the constant negative actually encourages more thought instead of less. Instead of saying, “Think about miracles, evolution, faith, mystery of creation”, you ask the question and give a negative grunt — which makes the reader wonder more, a bit tricky, but effective. Talk about passive-aggressive inspiration. It works!

Katherine Michaels