The Preacher Came To Town
By Gary Loewenthal

One day I was transfixed and transformed
By a preacher who summoned the forces of the universe
Who knelt down and confessed to the Highest Authority
Who spoke with passion and poured out compassion
Who had a heavy, unshakeable, unforgettable sadness

I felt that she had seen the divine beauty and the hellish hurt of the animals
The animals traveling to the abattoir in the sweltering heat, whose throats were parched
The animals who could no longer stand, who fell from weakness
The mother cows who bellowed and moaned for their babies
The rabbits and foxes still hideously alive as their skin was pulled off
The pigs convulsing in scalding tanks
The animals in the depths of torture
The hopeless animals in colorless cages

She heard the sorrowful cry of the animals in the fair, perversely paraded like queens before being killed and cut into pieces
The pitiful pleas of the 4-H animals, betrayed and discarded
The doves crippled by hunters
The monkeys in labs chewing off their limbs and going mad
The coyotes poisoned, trapped, and shot

The kaddish went on all day, the list of the mangled, the crushed, the beaten, the burned, the shocked, the knifed, the abused, the asphyxiated
The terrified and terrorized
The forgotten and devalued victims

And she prayed for peace
She heard the groan of the burdened beasts and wept with them
She saw the blood being drained from beautiful beings hanging on hooks and she died with them

She prayed for those who slaughtered and stole from the innocent
She prayed for forgiveness and prayed for redemption
She prayed for strength but surrendered to God's will
She prayed for the mighty whale and the tiny vole
She cried for the web of creation

She spoke to my soul, and to all our souls
She spoke of grayness and darkness and how the earth will swallow us all
She spoke of irreparable transgressions
She spoke in voices I had never heard yet understood

On that day, I reverberated and shivered
I absorbed
The horror and destruction, the unbearable suffering
That we force on the sentients of the earth
The unending pain we have wrought
Every second and every hour
An eternity of excruciating nows

She poured out her heart
She knelt down in shame and defeat
She asked God for forgiveness and judgment
She invoked His name and all that was holy and all that was sacred
She cried the most tearful lament
"We have fallen
We have forsaken Thee
We have broken the world, your perfect creation"

I felt at one with every being
And then cut off
And filled with a shapeless sadness
I hoped for mercy but felt the horrible loneliness of Hell

On that day, the preacher came to town
And spilt the blood of the heavens
We were not washed, we were not cleansed
We were left raw, and everything was more real

And we didn't know whether it was a new beginning
But we will never be the same