20 April 2006

More poems from a collection that--right now--has three parts: Gethsemane, Golgotha, and Galilee. That doesn't really matter, except that I'm still trying to figure out which parts certain poems go in. I'm thinking the Gethsemane poems should be concerned with imagery/events of the biblical past; Golgtotha should contain poems concerned with the mainstream christian present; and the Galilee poems will be imagining some kind of future synthesis of the antitheses between what I think of as authentic historical socialistic/communistic christianity and contemporary capitalistic pop-'christianity'. Anyway, here are a few more poems.


Super Bowl DCLXVI

Down on Bourbon Street, after we have showered the Saints with unleavened bread, old Simon the Leper will break a jar of alabaster on the corner of St. Peter, then spike hard the spikenard, pour it over his head, and give chase to the man with the pitcher of water. Upstairs, in a balcony over the Quarter, in the bread-body blood-wine upper room, we’ll kill the shepherd then scatter the sheep into the cocked night. In Jackson Square, the palmreader will shake hands with a ghost in a nightshirt who once fled naked toward the river. Somewhere under the bloody moon, straddling puddles of fallen stars, the Nazarene will carry torches, a lantern, and a sword. And this will cue the march.

Easter Sunday at the Olive Garden

During the Lord’s Supper Old Miss Mary stood up from the back pew, pulled a bottle of Chanel No. 5 from her purse and poured it over Brother Sulfur’s head. We, the congregation, were outraged: five ounces of good-funk, very expensive.

Later, loosed from the Invitation, from Brother Sulfur’s tractor beam—that penetrating gaze that planted seeds of fear and harvested the excess duty to feed his endomorphic body of Christ instead of uplifting our lack of spirit into the light of day as one would an empty glass to be filled with living water—we pals and I piled into my Suburban and lit out for the birthplace of the King for one last supper before Spring Break. Pious disciples, we prayed over our meal when it arrived, careful to stay bowed long enough so our Nubian waitress would be forced to wait to fill our glasses after a resounding Amen.

She kept the salad coming, the breadsticks, the cokes, and halfway through the meal we were stuffed but kept on eating, eating, eating and repeating sour judgments on the old couple across the way who clearly hadn’t been to church that day since he was an evident biker and she was an evident sway. Judging by his Samsonite –do and her Magdalenish eyes, we could tell they were much too unblessed to afford real meals. They were a little tipsy from all that bread and wine. Their lively spirits spilled over the boundaries of their booth into ours, and we rebuked them.

We, however, dry-county tee-totalers that we were—patient sufferers, breakfasting on the dawn’s orange juice and donuts, supping on dry crackers and Welch’s—had earned our desserts, having been taught by Lottie Moon’s example (starvation, China) to always clean our plates, which we did, despite the epic proportions of our portions.

One of us, though—the disciple whom Jesus loved—moved to pity like Pilate at our waitress’s obvious misfortune, left a tract instead of a tip (Transformation: How To Become A New Creature, like the great examples we’d just set) a better tip by far, we thought, than, say, thirty silver dollars. But now, looking back, the disciple recognizes it for what it was. Nothing more than pocket-change.

Fire and Brimstone

We are stoned to the brim
every Sunday,
in our dresses, coats, and ties—

Brother Sulfur stands
on our skin-diseased hands,
and pulls pits from our eyes.

It’s a Heavenly game of dodge-ball
except he’s hurling rocks
and we are anxious to be put out.

So we suffer his Soul’s Fury—
despite the glowing sun
& though the body count is high.
He’s our weekly reminder
of where we’re going all along

(Until we get a whiff
of Brother Stiff—

or did somebody just let one?)

Christus Canibalis

Full of the body,
of bread and wine,
we lick our stained lips
and grab for seconds.


To Thomas Merton

Aren’t we all islands, though,
our words the bridges that connect us?

I run across these waters,
thump across these boards,
and stand on your shore
(crane’s prints beneath my feet)
to contemplate sand and trees:

Is it that no man is an island

who has done with inner toil,
who rejoices in the snowflakes that connect him,
who dwells in the boat,
has felt the subtle brotherhood of men,
has plied the oar again and again
and yet is not so swift to swim
to feel upon his skin
the frozen melt of his own last end?

Down here, we’re all for show.
We rarely get a good snow,
mostly just heat and humidity.
Down here the view is—
well, oppressive.
Our ignorance is a thirst—
despite the salty sweat,
what more our swift conversions?—
for a fingertip to dip
a cool, clear drip of living water on our tongues.

But you,
asleep in your coffin,
you show us better.

You know us better
than we know ourselves.


Blogger Jean Louis said...


I don't know if I've said it, but I'm a big fan of this idea. I've got my own issues with modern Christianity work a-brewing, mine either a collection of shorts or a TV series. Not sure which.

Anyway, on to things:

"Super Bowl DCLXVI"--I absolutely love the imagery and language in this one, but I'm not sure I get it, beyond playing on the notion of New Orleans, Saints, Catholicism, etc. Do the characters of Simon and the Nazarene correspond to characters OTHER than their Biblical counterparts? And what of the ghost in the nightshirt?

"Easter Sunday"--

1. Cut "proportions of our" so that it reads "epic portions."

2. A comma after the close parentheses that follows "...like the great examples we'd just set)"?

"Fire and Brimstone"

Like it as is, maybe excepting the phrase "of where we're going all along." My tongue ties up over it.

"Christus Canibalis"

I'd cut this one entirely. It's not really a new idea, the cannibalism of Christianity, and the imagery isn't that startling or revelatory.

"To Thomas Merton"

I like it as is, too; though, who's Thomas Merton? Should we know?


1:53 PM  
Blogger The Damned said...

Great comments, Andy. Thanks.

That line in Fire and Brimstone is an attempt to allude to Emily Dickinson's poem "Some Keep the Sabbath Going to Church," but I can't figure out how to make it work--it's definitely clunky.

On the Super Bowl poem, I don't really know what I'm doing besides conflating ideas of christ's death, the tribulation, and the antichrist with the already present conflation of football and religion in the south.

You're right about the cannibal poem, though I like those lines, so I may try to work them into something larger, that way they won't have to try to carry so much weight.

I'm viewing "To Thomas Merton" as a sort of dedication, for either the first section or the entire collection, that also happens to be a poem--I like that idea for some reason. He was a pacifist Trappist monk at a monestary called Gethsemani in Kentucky who wrote a kind of apologetic called "No Man is An Island." He studied literature, religions, and died by electric shock in Bangkok, I think.


10:10 AM  
Blogger The Damned said...

About Super Bowl: since I’m not biblical in any way, I don’t get the allusions to the Bible too much. Although I enjoy the sound of this poem, I get completely lost in this: “we’ll kill the shepherd then scatter the sheep into the cocked night”; I don’t know what’s going on here—is the shepherd the same man as the one with the pitcher of water? And what does it have to do with the super bowl?

Easter: this is very very wordy and I get lost in it: “that penetrating gaze that planted seeds of fear and harvested the excess duty to feed his endomorphic body of Christ instead of uplifting our lack of spirit into the light of day as one would an empty glass to be filled with living water”
Would you italicize Transformation: How To Become A New Creature ?

Canibalis: because I wasn’t hit over the head with the whole “body of Christ” thing, I like this poem. I think it may have a place in a larger collection of work, but I’d have to see the whole thing.

I love Merton & Fire and Brimstone.

I guess I’m a bit out of my element here because I’m not a Bible Pro. My challenge to you, because I know how you are about starting something and not finishing and you often need a challenge so you don’t get bored, is to write from the point of view of a non-christian, maybe even an atheistic approach to faith for the Golgtotha section since many people seem to be “lost” even though they claim Christian affiliation. Maybe even write from a bibilical character’s pov (how sacreligious!) or an ekphrastic poem based on a popular biblical depiction (the Sistine chapel ceiling, perhaps?). I thik this would change the voice of each piece so it’s not the “recovering Christian” talking in each one.

Love to

10:50 AM  

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