They seeped in –
voices with
messages of
health –
all that seemed enticing
at a time when
things could have
might have
should have
been different.

They masked smugness
with smiles – too perfect,
straight, white,
assured joy
provided every “i” is dotted
“t” remains crossed
requirements fulfilled
vows kept
offerings sacrificed
time volunteered.

They squashed all
accusation with
loud proclamation of
inevitability, given
self-proclaimed authority
sound doctrine
great success.
cacophony outshouted
solitary stillness –
personal contemplation –
wherein lies hope.

The faithful absorbed every
bombastic pronouncement
moral soliloquy
unquestioned reprimand
into soul’s fabric
in trancelike submission
rapturous reverence
befitting only divinity
but demanded by
duplicitous swindlers
smiling, infallible autocrats
irreverent narcissists
disregarding the ordinary.

Pretension transcends time
expression duplicated with
small variation to reflect
clientele, community, culture,
inflicting equal deception
subversive technique
unquestioning subservience
to those who stipulate
unattainable standards, sanctity, salvation
always synonymous with success
always in exchange for
undying adulation
unwavering support.

This relationship –
sovereign and serf –
one in undisputed
service to another,
couched in now familiar rhetoric
replicated, normalized, whitewashed,
beguiling, enticing, euphemizing
until its presence is everywhere
unhindered, scarce scrutinized
near normative,
deemed benign but
subtle in its

We’ve seen it before
in gatherings of
the faithful with
its worshipped
dazed by glamor
purported miracle and wonder
refusing reason and logic –
said to belong to darkness –
until exhaustion flings
the mortal prostrate
before dimmed glitter
that once held promise.

A stupefied people stirs
too late? overcome by
a malignant mutation
on a scale
of global proportions
– same methods
other players –
any platform fair game
to promote ultimate power
personal gain
prestigious status –
cult or corporatocracy –
which is it? does it matter?

Recognition, reflection
revisitation of words, images,
experiences which have
deliberately disoriented
the faithful
remains the hope
for reorientation
rebirth of the
spiritually disenfranchised.

© Julia Penner-Zook, 2017
Photo credit:


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