Skip to main content

Poem from 1999 by Todd Swift



Sometimes I think that being a Protestant

is very dull. Rather like working
as a librarian, at Hull. Or not at all
the same, instead something flatter.
I wasn’t born Catholic, simple as that,

no fault of my mater, or my pater,
though they both tried hard, I’m sure
to make me Christian in their bed
(when making babies without underwear),

and did not wish me at my birth to be
the representative of only half Christ’s
community, on Earth, or less even;
I’ve been this way, United Church, then

Anglican, since I could count angels
in the stain, the glass hung up religiously,
could hardly imagine becoming RC,
yet tempted I remain, by the imagery

and exotic ways of doing things (African,
almost, or Chinese); I don’t dislike Mary,
think she’s very lovely, like the Pope -
but here I quickly get out of my depth -

it’s a dizzying world of Saints and beads,
parts of the Bible I have never read,
and a simply other-shaped kind of hope.
My people - if that’s who they are -

have done terrible things and been stupid -
some of theirs, I’ve heard, mistaken too -
all groping for a history in a world terribly
out of step with any basic common good.

In Sunday School I was made to draw whales
and Joshua, and walls falling, and asses
bearing Joseph and his wife on to that famous
manger. Meanwhile, inside the real place,

where adults sat dutiful and bored, anger
mingled with information about Dead scrolls
and long-winded journeys through Palestine
in bussess; the dust whipped up by those tours

seemed to whirl, then settle, in the pews.
Not words, nor deeds, or even well-baked goods
brought me inner satisfaction, although book sales
held some amazing bargains: James Bonds

for less than a comic; the Ladies hoarded the best
for themselves, so when the doors opened at Nine,
already the valuable stuff was gone, the poor
wandering though left-over left-overs in stalls.

And so it went. Sharing and the Samaritan, ditched,
and all the promises meant to be kept, abbreviated
by suburban standards and the Reformation.
The streets the houses of these Christians stood on

were wide, with lawns, and Dutch Elms that spread
until, one year (in ’76) they all got sick, failed
then were cut down by contractors from the city,
until the avenues were stumped and empty overhead.

More science than allegory, this true fact
still signals a radiating mood about my childhood:
it died where it stood, for all the stone buildings standing tall.
Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

AMERICA PSYCHO

According to the latest CBS, ABC, etc, polls, Clinton is still likely to beat Trump - by percentile odds of 66% to 33% and change. But the current popular vote is much closer, probably tied with the error of margin, around 44% each. Trump has to win more key battleground states to win, and may not - but he is ahead in Florida...

We will all know, in a week, whether we live in a world gone madder, or just relatively mad.

While it seems likely calmer heads will prevail, the recent Brexit win shows that polls can mislead, especially when one of the options is considered a bit embarrassing, rude or even racist - and Trump qualifies for these, at least.

If 42-45% of Americans admit they would vote for Trump, what does that say about the ones not so vocal? For surely, they must be there, as well. Some of the undecided will slide, and more likely they will slide to the wilder and more exciting fringe candidate. As may the libertarians.

Eyewear predicts that Trump will just about manage to win th…

DANGER, MAN

Like a crazed killer clown, whether we are thrilled, horrified, shocked, or angered (or all of these) by Donald Trump, we cannot claim to be rid of him just yet. He bestrides the world stage like a silverback gorilla (according to one British thug), or a bad analogy, but he is there, a figure, no longer of fun, but grave concern.

There has long been a history of misogynistic behaviour in American gangster culture - one thinks of the grapefruit in the face in The Public Enemy, or Sinatra throwing a woman out of his hotel room and later commenting he didn't realise there was a pool below to break her fall, or the polluted womb in Pacino'sScarface... and of course, some gangsta rap is also sexist.  American culture has a difficult way with handling the combined aspects of male power, and male privilege, that, especially in heteronormative capitalist enclaves, where money/pussy both become grabbable, reified objects and objectives (The Wolf of Wall Street for instance), an ugly fus…

OSCAR SMOSHCAR

The Oscars - Academy Awards officially - were once huge cultural events - in 1975, Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr, Shirley MacLaineandBob Hope co-hosted, for example - and Best Picture noms included The Conversation and Chinatown. Godfather Part 2 won. Last two years, movies titled Birdman and Spotlight won, and the hosts and those films are retrospectively minor, trifling. This year, some important, resonant films are up for consideration - including Hidden Figures and Moonlight, two favourites of this blog. Viola Davis and Denzel Washington will hopefully win for their sterling performances in Fences. However, La La Land - the most superficial and empty Best Picture contender since Gigi in 1959 (which beat Vertigo) - could smite all comers, and render this year's awards historically trivial, even idiotic.

The Oscars often opt for safe, optimistic films, or safe, pessimistic films, that are usually about white men (less often, white women) finding their path to doing the right thin…