The Purgation of Percival the Parsimonious Peewit
The curtain draws to reveal the stage
for almost a play, not quite a poem
when studied on the page.
Only after can we say
where the lines lay.
Here begins the purgation
of Percival the Parsimonious Peewit.
At least, that’s what they called him at school.
So what, he would say, he had been a bit stingy with money,
but being generous, sharing things,
had never been an unwritten rule.
As for the peewit, he always thought it absurd.
In no way did he resemble a bird.
Anyway, his first name was Percival.
Full name, Percival Parquin-Perry.
He woke on a circular bench round a circular room,
shaken from a dream he remembered, vaguely,
of crossing a dark river on a slow ferry.
Welcome to Purgatory. Do not panic. Wait.
A summoner will call you soon,
said a sign on a far wall.
If it was a wall, for though it glistened, looked solid,
it seemed to be built of blocks of light rather than stone.
“Purgatory, so this is where I am,” Percival thought.
Not long lifted his eyelids, he felt bright in brain and bone.
A shaky shadow grew to be a tall, thin man,
clad in a black crow gown.
He paused in the middle of the glistening floor,
his index finger pointing at a place on a page
of a book with a white cover, open on his left palm.
“I am the summoner,” he said, his tone clear, calm.
“Time for the purgation of Percival the Parsimonious Peewit.”
“So this is what you do in Purgatory,” Percival said.
“Sit. Wait. Wait till your eyelids droop, your head gets heavy.
Wait to be informed, interviewed.”
“Only at first and not for long,” said the summoner.
“They have to decide where you belong.”
“Well, not down there, I hope. I wasn’t that bad,” said Percival,
“No. No. No. Not down there,” said the summoner, comfortingly.
“But there are levels and circles from lower to higher up.”
“Oh, I see. It’s a class thing,” said Percival, sharply.
“I would have gone straight up there if I had been
a holy peasant, an enlightened yokel, a pious monk.
I have to pay for the life of privilege I lived on Earth.”
“What was given is measured with what was taken,”
said the summoner. “The judges will decide.
Now rise up. Follow me.”
Percival’s purgation was to him like standing
under a waterfall without getting wet,
a spirit, skin and bone cleansing,
a refreshing he would never forget.
After it was over, he was led to a gate,
but what he saw when he ascended a stair
no earthly tongue could relate.