the rapture

I met him in an empty house
his wife had died last May
now he’s got cancer of the mouth
refusing treatment they say

do you have faith he asked me straight
I said I’m sorry no
he asked how I live in such a state
with nowhere for my soul to go

he told me the tale of a man who died
his wife knelt down to pray
and when the ambulance stopped outside
the man was quite okay

‘all of it perfectly documented
the miraculous power of prayer’
he asked if I was interested
I said I was, to be fair

‘the rapture is almost upon us!’ he said
Jesus is close at hand!
don’t be one of those left for dead!
ascend to the promised land!

when the end times finally come
the sinful will lament
as the saved all rise in number
roughly ten percent’

I wanted to hear him answer
why God had to be so rough
why God had given him cancer
but I wasn’t brave enough

whatever brings you serenity
stories of a fierce dictator
or surrendering your identity
and falling back into nature

whatever. it’s all just weaving
working the warp and the weft
I said we’d be back next evening
shook his hand warmly and left

status update XXXV

And Jesus sayeth unto the flock / supper’s ready at three o’clock / I scored some bread and a coupla fishes / more than enough for you hungry ass bitches / while upstairs God just thunders and twitches / bustin’ His voluminous, numinous britches / watching His sin plan’s galling glitches / His one overriding concern, which is / humans can’t see they’re blessed with riches / and He’ll need a big gesture to cross those bridges

Hark the business angels sing / business skills and marketing / receipts on earth and surveys mild / cloud-based data’s really wild

I’m social media influenza / in need of a Soul n’Soap dispenza

I’m a robot shivering with a dose of the shits / a box of screws and a bucket of bits

I’m a monster from The United Strays of America / a tweeting, TV ready chimaera / one part Trump, one Bagheera / slowly & steadily creeping nearer / roaring, tweeting, speaking, hidin’ / on the trail of Old King Biden

I’m a Netflix doc about psycho preachers / on the run for eating their teachers / slick in beanies, suits & boots / Al Pacino and Imogen Poots

I’m Elon Musk with a gaping beak / blue for you and ready to tweet / this freedom shit’s so cool and neat / especially if our great minds meet / but if they don’t delete delete

Hey! Hieronymous! How’re ya doin? / is your garden ready for viewin’? / what the hell, man – this stuff’s deranged / we always thought you were kinda strange / but we hoped you’d be a little more simpatico / all we wanted was a bougie patio

I’m an alien megabrain sucking its teeth / watching its craft as they depart underneath / we’ve been studying your planet and friends – to be brief / your lack of insight gives us grief / so accept this mission as an aperitif / to the crap that’ll happen if you don’t improve, chief

I’m Eastwood, Siegel, Heston, Bronson / a bullet clip and a packet of gum / bumper stickers: I love my mum / The Second Amendment thy will be done / my pickup truck thy diesel come / trespass forgiven now go ahead, run / Texas Rangers rule of thumb: / if it bleeds, man – I’m gettin’ me some

I’m Putin, Trump and Bolsonaro / caped on horses with bows and arrows / hard hearts closed and cold eyes narrowed / veins of poison threading their marrow / ready to shoot the teensiest sparrow / for daring to hope for a better tomorrow

it’s just like my dear ol’ grandma reckoned / there’s many a slip twixt cup and armageddon

he knows you’re waiting

it must be tough being God
I can’t think of a less attractive job
it couldn’t be worse
having to be everywhere in the universe
from a learner driver reversing
and cursing
to a nervous nurse
what she plans to say
when she comes up before the board that day
from a butcher slicing his fingers with the salami
to a village getting flattened by a tsunami
the demands are endless
all the people pretty much defenceless
so much of it senseless

or is it?

I don’t know – He doesn’t do many personal visits

but the thing that makes it all so exquisite
when you pray, God doesn’t go Oh Jesus Christ NOW what is It?
because the guy’s complicit
He KNEW those planes were headed for Manhattan
He KNEW when the towers went up they were gonna get flattened
but he’s contractually obliged
to let the planes fly
and not guide
them to a better place
even though his superpowers are supposedly ace
and he could’ve easily done it and not lost face

so in case
you’re wondering
why He keeps blundering
klutzing around the place, flooding and thundering
leaving people in the lurch
to the point you wonder why they go to church
it’s because (apparently) He gave them Free Will
which is fine until
you find this God of Love
is more than happy to shove
any who die and come to dwell
with Him and his high-end clientele
heads down heels up straight to Hell
okay great thanks
you just got pranked
Free Will definitely shooting blanks

But God moves in a mysterious way, His wonders to perform
from carcinomas to slugs on the lawn
maybe that’s why He’s permanently distracted
and so damned hard to be personally contacted
maybe he needs more angels on the desk
because I have to say His PR’s grotesque
it’s hard to be desperate, patient AND virtuous
when all you get is ‘please hold – your prayer is important to us’

creation myth

In the Beginning
was The Bird
but Her feathers were thinning
and The Bird felt cursed
It couldn’t be worse
She was the only Bird in the Universe

So She swallowed a star
and laid an egg
and hatched The Jaguar
and grabbed His leg
and tossed Him out the nest
(She expected a chick and wasn’t impressed)

The Jaguar roared
and vomited humans
which I’m reliably assured
was the REAL evolution
and goes some way to explain the confusion
but I’ll let you reach your own conclusion

probably best not push it

well – good!
so there IS a god
which being an atheist I find quite odd
but happily
She covers my faux pas tactfully
fundamentally matter-of-factly
in many ways actually
for a deity
She’s pretty understanding
doesn’t go in for growling and grandstanding
all that severely bearded fierceness
all that begat this and that weirdness
all that mad muscular masculine business
no – She’s better than that
She’s great with horses, ferns, cats
plate tectonics, stuff like that
knows a river delta from a bedding plane
the ins and outs of a semi-permeable membrane
a cos lettuce from a romaine
a cell phone from cellophane
I mean pretty much generally
you’d have to say academically
She’s highly advanced
happy to give things a second chance
although humans
I’m assuming
are pushing it
there’s only so much She can do to cushion it
before She sighs, shrugs, flushes the tubes
pulls another Chicxulub
(the crater’s there though you’d hardly know it
still – it capped things off in the Cenozoic)

a few helpful lines on death

Death is a Big Bargain Bucket O’Nuffin
an Interplanetary Egg Mcmuffin
without the Egg
just an infinity of empty bun instead

When you look at a pigeon
do you ever wonder what religion
it has, or hasn’t?
or if religion is entirely absent
in fowl?
and how’ll
you cope
if you get to the pearly gates and ask if they have any birds in there and they say nope?

the fact is
death as an act is
entirely passive
but the overall impact is massive
because really it’s everything
and nothing
all at once
and comes at a person on multiple fronts
from the holiest saints to the most unutterable non-saintly characters

if anyone ever frowns, looks me in the eye
and asks what I think happens when you die
I sigh
and try
to look confident
say I’m not hindu or muslim or protestant
but just a plain ol’ human kinda animal
admittedly particularly cute and adaptable
outward looking, international
but for all this, just a humble ol’ organism
suffering from a dose of cellular determinism
trying to make sense of being alive
and doing okay before I die

But you haven’t answered my question!
you shout in my general direction
your face red with congestion
(try breathing exercises is my suggestion)

so to recap
before I get knee-capped

I think death
is more than just a clinical absence of breath
no – that’s just the physical
it might help to imagine the umbilical
stretching toward
from the infinite womb
of Gaia, I presume
(which is to say
That Infinite Thing that brought you here today)

In other words, the Great Fertile Nothing
you got popped outta that day with a whole lotta huffing
THAT’S where you’ll be heading
the opposite of begetting
which shouldn’t be upsetting
because it’s the norm
a return to the YOU before YOU were born
i.e. Nowhere
which is only fair
because if everyone went and lived forever
we’d be jammed up with clouds and harps and whatever

Religion? – I get it
but in my case forget it
I’ll live my life and do my best
then dive in the void for a nice long rest

giving up the ghost

I was queuing with the vicar in the pharmacy
I had pills to collect and so had he
we stood there waiting patiently
father, son and holy remedy

he said faith is a waste, god an addiction
I said what d’you mean he said pay attention
I’m retired now so the hell with convention
get ready to receive my benediction

fifty years I stood in the pulpit
dressed from head to toe in the full kit
read my lines from the latest booklet
questioned my faith but overlooked it

ever since I lost the collar
I’m short of puff and my heart irregular
two new hips, a dodgy patella
lately I find I’m much more secular

then he turned and smiled quite sadly at me
said he’d enjoyed this little chat with me
Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?
as the pharmacist called next customer please

cutting the strings

When push comes to shove
which I’m afraid
these days
it invariably does

you wonder whether GOD
who certain texts suggest
created this mess
hadn’t fallen asleep on the job

I don’t understand
if there’s EVIL, GOD made it
and lately I’m afraid it
has gotten the upper hand

for the price of admission
to heaven, we’re told
we’re free in the world
to make our own decisions

except – we’re not
because GOD made everything
out of nothing
which is a lot

GOOD as well as EVIL
a twisted puppet show
to play for eternity, you know?
a touch medieval

maybe that’s too literal
it’s a creation myth I suppose
but as far as those things go
this one’s pretty scriptural

religion’s simplistic
the whole thing’s a bust
GOD is just US
loving and sadistic

or maybe just LOVE
yeah – I hope that’s it
our heavenly ticket
kind of

death gets cute

and death didst come to me as in a dream
and I didst sit bolt upright in bed and scream
and my pajamas verily most heavily didst cream

Jiiiiiimmmmmmmyyyyyy he said
floating sulphurously over the bed

am I dead I said
no don’t worry he said
at least not yet

so what the hell is it
some kinda sick social visit

so…I don’t know… it was just getting boring
he said, yawning
then carefully resetting his jaw in the sling
he had to wear
round his skull instead of hair
to keep his jaw there

what d’ya mean – eternity?
I mean – you’ve got my sympathy
mate, but as far as I can see
that’s nothing to do with me
you’re having a laugh
I’ve got to get up in an hour and a half

somebody’s grumpy he said
maybe you should try going to bed
a weensy bit earlier at night
then maybe you wouldn’t be so clippy, alright?

yeah? well I heard death could be agonising
but I’d rather have that than patronising

don’t be mean, he said
sadly descending to the foot of the bed
where he smouldered with a strange intensity
that lacked discernible heat or density
which I have to admit was all pretty new to me

sorry, I said – you caught me off guard
I try to be understanding but it’s hard
especially when you’re so freakin’ charred
does that mean hell is hot
or not
is there a God?
Jesus Christ I hope not

actually no there isn’t
he sighed
carefully putting his scythe aside
crooking one bony knee over the other
idly picking fluff from my cover

you see – Jimmy – God is just a story you tell
about angels, prophets, heaven and hell
a touching way of making sense
of the fundamental questions of existence
to which the answer is oxygen and carbon
and if I’ve rocked your world I beg your pardon

okay – so – I don’t get it
Death comes to visit
and you want me to forget it?

I’m an allegory, dear
a gorgeous but hokey souvenir
a byproduct of consciousness
he said, clapping his phalanges
you mortals really are such a tease
you ask about God – well…take a look around
there are millions of deities to be found
in any place you care to look
from Weston-super-Mare to Çatalhöyük
I could talk you through the creation myths
but there’s nothing duller than shopping lists

he gaped at me
seemingly quite happily
with what I took to be affection
and I have to admit the conversation
was heading in a wholly unexpected direction

so.. how am I supposed to feel
now that I know that God’s not real?

Who knows? said Death as the clock struck twelve
you’ll just have to figure it out for yourself
and with a hopelessly boney stamp
and an inexplicable but theatrical dimming of the lamp
he flashed me a look that was scary but appealing
then shot straight up through the bedroom ceiling

I sat there wondering what I’d just seen
I mean
for someone supposedly fictional
he was pretty vocal and visual

but just as I lay back on the pillow
there was another booming billow
of fire and smoke
and the very same cloaky bloke
came floating back

Whaaaat? I said
sitting up in bed
Was that all a joke?
Were you toying with me?
Don’t be silly
he said
tip-toeing round the bed
trying to act all cool & blythe
I just came back to fetch my scythe

bible curious

cut to a priest
sitting in a truth booth
wiggling in a wet patch
scritchin’ and a-scratchin’
at a blessed box of matches
ready to inflame
the same damned candle
the fat and waxy handle
on his spiritual fruit machine
four Hail Marys and a pay out
eternal bliss and a way out
a kiss on the hand
may be quite continental
but the pope’s not sentimental
not like that
surprisingly hard despite the hat
his cardinal sin?
finding the time to fit it all in

but what’s with the god awful shout?
abruptly heeling & wheeling about
clean heels on hard stones
rich robes running
the congregation concentrating
being, becoming
humming along with the mains