Strange as it may seem,
I was tempted to consider
Catholicism, not the Roman kind
but that of the breakawy churches
who accept all, gay or straight,
married or divorced, the whole
lot of mankind just because.
They do believe in heaven
which is a good alternative
to the Bardo, and having choices
is a good thing even in death.
I was truly tempted to give
it my all when I realized that
it was problematic, for it had
led me into temptation and that
is something you pray doesn’t happen,
and if I want a conundrum
Buddhism offers me plenty.
My ultimate goal, never to be achieved
is to redesign hell and all of its circles
to better reflect the world we live in now.
Of course I’d need two circles for
politicians, one for each major party,
and independents get to choose.
Catholic priests, minister and rabbis
who abused members of their flocks
get a circle of their own with the movie
Dogma playing in an endless loop.
There would be all the usual circles
for the those whose lives fell short
and one for Buddhists. Imagine
a run down Motel 6 in the worst possible
neighborhood, since they will only
stay until their reincarnation as
something truly ghastly and detested.
Those would be my desirables, but
the one certainty, the absolute is
the worst of all, set aside for those
who spent untold hours toiling
to write catchy but ever so vapid, cloying
melodies and lyrics that become stuck
in your mind like an intractable fungus.
First Published in AGON Journal, Issue 0, 2021
As a child, a Jewish child no less,
December was always a bit difficult.
We had Channukah, which no Jew
would dare claim grew solely to compete
with Christmas, although we all knew
that was precisely what had happened.
The problem was Christmas, but had
nothing to do with Jesus, or the church
or even its historical teachings about
the supposed role we Jews played
in that story, a role for which we
had been paying for two millennia.
The problem was far more basic,
and all you needed to do was drive
down virtually any street in any city
and it would be at once apparent.
Christmas-celebrating homes were decked
out in all colors of lights, while
Jewish homes, those few who competed,
were left with a palate of white
and blue, or up to nine candles,
and that was a guaranteed for sure
last place finish in the December game.
We kept them together to protect them,
he said, though we did make the men
wear the red And yellow badge.
You must understand, this was for their good.
We didn’t want them corrupted
by our Catholicism, so we had to ensure
we would not mingle with and debase them.
There were our bankers, without them
the King would’ve made tax demands on us
and a kingdom cannot long survive
on the broken backs and empty pockets of its people.
And anyway, they knew they need not comply,
after all what’s a pound of silver fine to a Jew.
Over the next few weeks I shall
step into more churches than is safe
for a formerly Jewish Buddhist, but
in Europe it seems no tour is complete
without one or more churches, at least
one of which will be the most
beautiful cathedral in all of [choose
any country you wish and inserted here.]
I will take off my hat, for that is easier
than the opprobrium of the faithful,
I will stare at the beauty of the stained-glass,
try, in some cases, to ignore its message,
and hope, beyond all logic, that this group
will stop at a synagogue were all
of the men and women, save me
will have to put on kippot or head scarves
and most will vow it will be their last visit
do such a heathen place, at least until
they get to Antwerp or Amsterdam.
The church is about half full,
which is to be kind, a quarter
of the pews are filled, but people
are spread widely apart to give
the family, to give the priests,
just to be on the safe side
to give God, the impression
of a fuller house, although
it being a Mass of Resurrection
on a Saturday morning, the more devout
are fairly certain it will not count
toward their weekly obligation.
The recessional hymn complete, the priests
greet the parishioners with a smile
that is equal parts joy and Surprise
and the pews return to their afternoon naps.