The clouds this evening are the deep gray that so long to be black, but the retreated sun just below the horizon lingers long enough to deny them.
The space, shrinking, between the clouds, is the gray of promise that the night will soon deny, and the birds who take over the preserve, chant their vespers, each in his or her own language, uncommon tongues singing their hymn punctured, punctuated by the flapping of wings, as the night encloses us in a cocoon that will carry us into the coming morning.
It is December, and in this part of Florida that simply means that a morning jacket is advised, and rain comes as a bit of a surprise. A neighbour was surprised to be told that they decorated like a Northerner, but assumed that it was a bit of a dig, though they thought the inflatable snowman and reindeer captured the season’s spirit. We laugh at the red hat wearing flamingo’s and the Christmas alligators, the lighted palm trees seem appropriate and snowflakes, even lit ones, know better than to appear, for the mocking of ibis and egrets can be unmerciful. So we’ll settle for our odd little tree with its lifetime of ornaments, each carrying with it the spirit of a day when we ought to ask ourselves what we can do to prepare the world for the generations we hope will follow.
First published in The Poet: Christmas, December 2020 (United Kingdom)
He says he cannot believe in angels because he has never seen one. I do not believe in his sort of angels, but not for lack of visual confirmation, rather that I live in a world that now is so deeply in need, that an angel might be our last, best hope, but the scope of angelic miracles is not likely wide enough to encompass the utter disaster which we have created.
I tell him that I do believe in angels, that I have met several in my life, and scowl when he laughs so that he must consider that I am serious, and then he asks what an angel looks like, so he will recognize one when and if he ever sees one.
I advise him that you don’t have to search all that hard, that you merely need to be aware, and watch the face of the baby when you stop and coo at him or her as they lie in their stroller, staring up at the always welcoming sky.
Religion, he said, is inherently illogical and the older the religion, the more illogical it becomes, accreting absurdity over time. A corollary of this proposition is that the more organized a religion claims to be, the more its spirituality is buried under rules and regulations which only illustrate the principal proposition set forth above. Humans create religion not to explain the unexplainable but to justify ignorance and their unwillingness to search and risk finding answers that conflict with their desired view of life and decomposition. But, he concluded, do not for a second believe that atheists have it right, for theirs is a religion of utter illogic and rigidity certain of the nonexistence of an idea that they believe they can demonstrate, but have not, and they will be damned if they will stop trying.
Christ and his disciples walk slowly through the lobby en route to the bar, discussing the evil of war and blind obedience. They push three tables together and slowly drain the pitchers of Bud draft, laughing over the sound of the Karaoke. As the evening draws itself into night, he boasts in Aramaic that he has translated more than half of the Bhagavat Gita, although he much prefers the Tibetan Book of the Dead. Satan, he suspects aloud, is still trying fruitlessly to finish Spinoza’s Ethics, but without improved understanding the old devil is doomed to failure. As the night draws on, the hooker hovers ever closer, and for a moment he wonders if she would moan as she feigned orgasm. He lights another Camel and crumples the empty pack and throws it, knowing it will miss the can and roll on the floor under the bar rail, and he curses in the ancient tongue.
Hell is a place where what you least desire becomes eternally yours, or so we were told as children, well not us, not the Jewish kids, for us Hell was our mothers’ finding that copy of Playboy we stole from our father’s stash our mother didn’t know about, and which he would deny, throwing us under the bus or any large vehicle she found
If we buy into Hell, and given that ours is an aging population, many of whom have landed in Florida and Arizona to avoid the winters that are hell on the ubiquitous arthritis, and all those who have joyously consumed the evangelical Kool-Aid, when the final bell rings, they may be surprised to discover there is far, far more of a chance of a snowball in Hell.
Night has swallowed the city and in the laundromat, dryer 42 decries her loose drive belt. The young girl turns, “can you see it the Virgin Mary, in the glass porthole”. No, I think, only white cotton panties and several pair of jeans in endless rotation. “She speaks to me, asking for my forgiveness for the burden she has delivered to us and though I try to give her absolution she will not listen. Talk to her, maybe it is a male voice she needs to ease her mourning.” I stare fixedly at the washer as the light for final rinse snaps on, “she knows you, she is waiting, so talk into the camera, that one with the red light, and tell her that you forgive, as your forgave the other Mary, who you redeemed.” The dryer slowly grinds to a halt and the young girl grimaces, “she is gone, so perhaps she heard what I could not, and I thank you”. She wanders out onto the street and fades into the shadow outside the penumbra of the streetlight.
First published in Prairie Winds (1999)
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He will tell you he’s agnostic, once he would’ve set atheist, but put to the test, he knows he couldn’t disprove the existence of that which could not be seen. He believes it will, must, get better eventually, he has infinite faith that it will, he says to anyone who will listen, in faith is something, he notes, you
cannot ever have in overabundance. It does not strike him in the least bit odd that a man of no belief in God places his future in the hands of faith, although he would tell you he has no idea what it is, exactly, he has faith in.
Go into the hills an bring back logs, straight, peel the bark and smooth them satin fibers, the main pole at least eight arms the cross no less than six. Lash them well so they will not yield under the weight of the body where you might hang. Do not speak to the shepherd, he will tell tales of what he claims he has seen on the hill but he cannot be trusted and speaks of his dreams of centurions standing over the freshly dug graves.
First appeared in Rain Dog Review Vol. 1, No. 4 (1996) and later in Legal Studies Forum Vol 32, No. 1 (2008)