29 March 2006

Gethsemane and Golgotha, or
The New Fundamentalists, or
4 Poems Intended to Begin the Tradition of Southern Baptist Recovery Poetry

"Gospel Troy (played by Billy Bob Thornton)"

Yeah, I’ve been a Deputy goin-on 18 years now.
I was 9 when I signed up. Tin star came in the mail,
stuck it on my pearl-capped brown-plaid button-down
& wore that thing ragged.
Don’t have a hat, Don’t need one:
this is the Lord’s Wranglers we’re talking about.

Listen here,
This is what I tell the Lord’s Lawbreakers:
“You’re wanted, son. Wanted for a price.
Heaven’s after you, spraying bullets of glory
(thank you Jesus).
One of these days he’s gone run you down,
string you up by your sins,
& hang you out over hell.
Most likely you’ll meet on the street round high noon
& he’ll draw on-ye quickern youn confess.

So what’ll it be, pard?
I’m own pray for-ye now,
& in tongues if you don’t mind:

Shabala hubadah lebadah…

(thank you Jesus)
Here’s you anothern.

Mount up.We’re rounding up the Lord’s Most Wanted.


Peter, Paul, and Mary sing
Olive tree very pretty
and the olive flower is sweet
but the fruit of the poor olive…
on the Mount, the garden, the orchards,
the black beat of vultures’ wings on a pale pile of skulls
the page, the Sermon
words like red & black ants crawling across angels’ wings
the bitter drupes, pressed in an iron squeeze
the empty darkness of an orbital, a cave, or a tomb,


Roll credits—
The Book of Life—
scrolling up the screen toward heaven
all the old names written in black
or blood

"Brother Bailey Tells It Like It Is"

"It is interesting at great political rallies how you have a Protestant to pray and a Catholic to pray, and then you have a Jew to pray. With all due respect to those dear people, my friend, God Almighty does not hear the prayer of a Jew. For how in the world can God hear the prayer of a man who says that Jesus Christ is not the true Messiah? It is blasphemy."--Bailey Smith, president, Southern Baptist Convention, Aug. 22, 1980.

I call ‘em like I see ‘em, my friend,
cause Darlin, my eyesight’s twenty-twenty
(at least when I got my Jesus-Goggles on).
God, on the other hand,
when it comes to Jews—
of course—
is deaf.
We all know that.
Look at history:
Wailing in the gas chambers.
You mean to tell me he heard all that?
Christ! That ain’t my God Almighty.

"A Family Tradition"

We go back to ’61,
baptized in blood,
since which time
we’ve established quite a history
(if I do say so myself)
of ignoring all-things-poetry.
We are not Yankee
or industrial
and by no means modern.
Pastoral, yes (but males only, please)
and without the dang harps
And pretty sheep
(we’ll keep the Psalms, though,
seeing as how they’re already in there).

This ain’t no Lost Cause.
No ma’am,
the South—like Christ—
will rise again.

Don’t give me that crap
about Ham and whiskey.
I mean, come on,
look at Lottie Moon.
She ain’t no white sheet.

Let’s make that old-time religion
really speak to the youth of today.
We got all your modern conviences:
we’re basically Wal-Mart
with Christ on every aisle.

And T-shirts—
the youth love ‘em,
and why not,
what a witness,
what a message—
100% cotton=100% Christ
“American by birth,
Southern by the grace of God.”

Brother Hank, I’m here to tell you
(I guess I’m in the right place
I look around and all I see're white faces):
it’s a lot like Dixie.
I mean a lot.


Blogger The Damned said...

for "Gospel Troy"
okay, i like the dialect, but by the time we get to this line: "I’m own pray for-ye now", it's really overdone...mostly i question the form...why not make this a prose poem...i tried to think about the lines as scripture, as individual "nuggets" of baptist thought to try to make sense of the breaks, but that wasn't working...so then i tried to focus on last words and this made a bit more sense--emphasis on ragged, one, lawbreakers, price, glory, sins, hell, etc. ...exactly what are you trying to accomplish with the line breaks?

and does billy bob really need to be mentioned? c'mon, you're cheapening this monologue

8:41 AM  
Blogger The Damned said...

for "Brother Baily"
i pity this man, if he's "real"--the sentiment is real enough so i suppose i pity a lot of people...technically, you could clean this up a bit...get rid of "my" and capitalize Friend so it flows with the "Darlin" in the next line...get rid of "at least" because i think that's a narrative intrusion...should "he" be capitalized?

8:45 AM  
Blogger Jean Louis said...


Agreed on the overdone "I'm own pray for-ye now." I like the curious fact, however, that this speaker uses ampersands instead of the word "and".

Would this speaker not also capitalize the pronoun he when it refers to Christ?

"Scripture" -- Neat organizing principle, the script, but what's the sentiment being expressed here? What's the function of the form?

"Brother Bailey" -- Those darn apostrophes need reversing before "em". Word does that, I know, but it's a pet peeve of mine.

"A Family Tradition" -- section 2. Should "the South" and "Christ" be reversed, so it reads:

No ma'am,
Christ--like the South--
will rise again.

Just a thought.

Section 4, comma or period after "100% Christ."

In the end, "Gospel Troy"'s my favorite piece. It has the most distinctive voice--if that voice does, at times, get a bit too southern.

Enjoyed all of these. Are these intended as part of a larger series of poems, or just four for now?


9:05 AM  
Blogger The Damned said...

Joy, Andy,

Thanks for the comments. They're definitely helpful. I wasn't sure how far to push the dialect stuff, but I tried it since it does establish tone and voice. I definitely think the form of "Scripture" can be effective, but I'm not maximizing that right now--it's not clear. I am thinking of these as some kind of collection, maybe something similar to Blake's Songs of Innocence and Experience, although I'm not as familiar with it as I should be.


9:25 AM  
Blogger The Damned said...

in "Scripture" is it a play on words "Scripture" shortened to a script?...almost reducing the bible to a script/formula?

if not, i'm not sure about the form either...i honestly had to think about this for a while

3:03 PM  
Blogger The Damned said...

Yes, with "Scripture" I'm trying to imply that sacred texts are like scripts in that their value is not inherent in themselves but in what they point to. Scripts are directions for those who'll make the film, directions about how the images, sets, etc. should be arranged in order to create the dream of the film. So I'm trying to suggest that sacred, holy texts do the same thing.


7:29 AM  
Blogger The Damned said...

Comments for “Family Tradition”:
I don’t see the connection between Pastoral and male—is there one I’m just brain-farting over?
I’m with Andy, inverting Christ and the South in #2
I wouldn’t break the stanza with “Christ on every aisle” and “and t-shirts” because I like the idea of them being Wal-Mart t-shirts (even worse than just a t-shirt); should there be a colon after the second “Christ” in #4?

Overall, Adam, I love these. It’s a hard thing, trying to expose hypocrisy without turning the lunatics against you, or renouncing you. Still, I’m not sure how successful these will be on there own—I think it’s crucial to develop them into something larger, longer…something like the scriptures themselves, so that each poem has it’s own “directions” and each section of the work appeals to different groups, just like the New Testament when it was conceived, and then rewritten.

Bravo! I wish I could gain access to your brain so I can learn how you’re able to avoid the tone I seem to take when writing about the South (Like in “Where you from?”)

Just a thought: I think it would be funny to have a spiritual Quentin Compson moment: “I don’t hate Jesus! I don’t! I don’t!”

1:07 PM  

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