Canto CCLX

I have to field the question now and then—
when’s the date for baby’s christening—
I tell them she can choose her religion

when she is old enough, that I will bring
all of the world’s faiths to her attention.
Of course I hope she will choose no such thing

and make do with this life. If the command
to have no other god save for Yahweh
elicits worship from her adult mind,

I will not wave some Dawkins at her face,
although I reckon knowledge is enough
to keep the fear of any hell at bay,

the manifest versions of Pascal’s Bluff.


Canto CCXX

Today I’ll lay off the Christians a bit
as they mourn their God’s weekend-long demise,
for truth’s bare bones must wear the meat of myth

and myths are not synonymous with lies.
Today, I’ll count my grey hairs and commune
with all the dead that prefaced their half rhymes

with five iambic feet. When that is done,
I’ll press my lips against my wife’s navel
and whisper to the future worlds within

of constant resurrection and renewal.

Canto CVI

I’ve seen so many things in this queer world
that it’s a feat to render me agog
and yet I saw them lined up in the cold

outside the Church, the entire pavement hogged
by well groomed, bourgeois middle class families.
The line stretched out the full length of the block

and this was for the bloody CofE,
a queue that rivalled any Apple store
the night before they ship the IPad 3.

Perhaps consumerism was no more
now that the banks were belly up like whales,
eviscerated on some Norway shore?

As if to prove my point a father told
his daughter that this was the other side
of Christmas when she asked if Santa would

be waiting for them when they got inside.
A few feet further on the penny dropped
when I glanced to the side entrance and spied

a line of children clutching toy sheep props
and wearing tea towels on their precious heads
with face paint beards, an infant acting troop

to tell the tale of baby butcher Herod
and pregnant women turned away from inns
to give birth to the only son of God

among the cows, donkeys and some chickens,
though these seasonal Christians would be spared
hearing their children use the word “virgin”.

I can only hope this whole thing will be dead
by the time that my kids act in Christmas plays,
we’ll keep those tatty tea towels off their heads

and dress them up like each member of Slade.

Canto XCVI

You ask me why I’ve not removed this ink,
this Celtic Cross tattooed on my right arm,
despite the fact that nowadays I think

that God’s a fiction. Watch the pigments turn
from clotted black to muddy, vein-like green.
Does this not illustrate how faith can wane?

If not, then let me try a different scene,
a storm tossed island off the Galway coast,
the same one Roethke spent some time upon,

where I left the small inn and headed west
to where the landscape turns to rock and mud,
where, blinded by the drizzle and the mist,

you can stroll off a cliff, just like that, dead,
which almost happened a few times before
I saw a bob of seals just up ahead,

down on the rocks. I wanted to see more,
perhaps they’d let me brush my primate hand
across each blubbery ripple of their fur?

But as I headed down to them I found
a steel cross, six foot high, facing out
into the north Atlantic where the wind

will find no trace of land until it hits
the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador
and I felt moved to kneel down, genuflect

and offer up a gently worded prayer
before I headed back towards the inn
to binge on Guinness ’til the early hours.

That’s when I heard the tale—the two young men
that climbed onto the rocks to watch the seals,
both lost forever as the tide came in.

The iron cross was their memorial,
the very cross that kept me from their fate,
though a safety notice might have worked as well…

That’s why this cross remains, I’ll let it fade,
as all must fade, it serves to tell a tale,
as do these wrinkles, scars, these flecks of grey

that glint within my hair and my stubble.
I’ll leave the censorship to time’s slow hand,
as the landlord’s hand grasps for the closing bell,

now reach into those pockets, it’s your round.

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