The Laodicien

by John Elinger

‘Unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write: … I know thy works, that thou art neither cold, nor hot: I would that thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, … I will spue thee out of my mouth.’ The Revelation of St. John the Divine III 14-16

There used to be seven cities of that name once.
Mine was the one mentioned in Revelations,
one of the seven earliest Asian churches.
Laodicea, in my time, was wealthy:
located by a river on a trade-route
connecting the Euphrates, Pergamum and
Ephesus (to the north). Our sheep were famous –
or rather the soft wool their fleeces yielded,
which made us money; and we learned that money
breeds just like sheep. Rich cities create culture:
we built a temple and a school of medicine –
you know the image of our Zeus Aseis,
remember the Laodicean sceptic
philosophers, perhaps admire the ruins?
(The city was destroyed by Turks and earthquakes.)

I sometimes wonder whether all that money
made us so cool (St. John said we were tepid!)
or if our coolness – moderation, call it –
was what had made us rich? Gold, and white clothing,
make men take care; and carefulness engenders
wealth. (Is that circle virtuous, or vicious?)
An old man, I no longer see the wretched
beggars across the street, or hear the urgent
knock at the door. I live alone, drink lukewarm
water alone, and share my meals with no man –
content, and proud, to be Laodicean.
Why should we seek extremes of cold or passion,
commitment or detachment, ice and fire? I
will sit here in the shade, expecting nothing,
until the Turks invade, or the earth trembles.