By No Other Path

(An atheist’s advice for believers)

You think that upon your earthly death
you will exhale at last your final breath
and sprout from your ghost the angelic wings
to carry you aloft, to the King of Kings,
but with whom you count yourself there among
depends on how well you climbed each rung
of the burning ladder that leads to Heaven
during your life, enduring the Seven.
You cannot fly high by flapping tongues,
but must give with open hands to take the rungs—
by giving up your all with selfless alms
and bearing the wounds of Christ upon your palms;
for it is a burning ladder you must ascend,
each rung a Hell before your End.

Beneath His Habit

Beneath his habit there was hidden
what, in his gospels, he preached against—
a body beset, disease-ridden,
for which he so shivered and coughed and winced.

Beneath his collar there grew like weeds
a cancer of the throat, so like libel,
and down below his rosary beads
his lungs were black as a brand new Bible.

While he spoke to save each lamb-like soul
in the rapt congregation of his church
there was an irreparable hole
in his heart—literal, which made it lurch.

And there were blood clots, each quite swollen,
in his arteries, clogging the relay,
and there were polyps in his colon,
lined like pews in a church, ripe with decay.

He read aloud tales from the good book
of his Lord, and how He might spite us,
his fingers trembling, stiff at each crook,
and thorn-ringed with a flaming arthritis.

His frail body was the tale of Job,
each youthful blessing stripped wholly away
until only faith filled up his robe,
forcing fickle flesh through another day.

Love became his words, and creed his sight,
while pain became his altar boys and choir;
as he spoke of faith, his lips were white
and he smelled of Death beneath his attire.

But he felt akin at last to Christ
as he hung tormented upon the cross,
knowing faith means being sacrificed
to prove one’s faith, through its gain and its loss.

Speaking of the paradise to come
he became so passionate and pious
as to feel faint, his arms and legs numb
while he toppled down upon the dais.

Thus he fell, and thus his flock mistook
his death as evidence of their god’s wrath,
averting their eyes, so as to look
for some other means—an easier path.

Needless Storms, Needless Nightmares

Through the belly of the midnight storm,
like Jonah in the wallowing whale,
the world remained all aswarm
with rain and wind and biting hail.
The downpour fell heavy as if thrumming
like a blacksmith’s hammer upon the sword
held in Christ’s mouth, his Second Coming
among thunder and lightning—a wrathful lord.
Trees thrashed about in terror-blind mobs
as if to uproot themselves from the earth and go,
and black clouds shrouded behemoth knobs
while the Dragon’s wings deafened all below.
And among the fraying thunderhead
there floated ever after the Reapers,
phantoms wandering from bed to bed—
bad dreams visiting peaceful sleepers.

Assumption

Frogs and toads gather
upon the onyx highway,
squatting in oily rainfall
with their heads raised skyward
and their eyes bulging wide with
unblinking expectation,
like kneeling believers
beseeching their
God
in ardent prayer.
They are a
Heaven’s Gate flock,
a
suicide cult
awaiting the Assumption
to come with
brightening haloes—
amphibious souls
caught between two worlds
and
awaiting the rending
radiance
of swiftly approaching
headlights
from out of unheeding darkness
into unheeding darkness,
an elusive scrawl of
meaninglessness
strewn
messily
along
the
way.

Abraham’s Paradise Paradox

They thus beat stained, sinful swords
unto penitent plowshares,
wanting to live in peaceful accords
and promising in prayers
to share the bounty of their Lord
with kin and friend and neighbor
as milk-and-honey freely poured
as blood from a saber
so long as plow cut not too deep
the lands they sought to sow
that golden crop they wished to reap
to expose the bones below.
But however they tried to plant a grain
in the Promised Land’s womb
they harvested only the crop of Cain—
a crimson, bleeding bloom.

Sotie

In the center of the stage the silence broke
and thereupon the Devil, grinning, spoke:
“Lift your donkey-eared sire higher
and pile the crosses upon the pyre—
it is the Feast of Fools, the decadence
when insanity makes the most sense.
Too many plagues, too many prayers,
too many imbalances while God errs.
Cast the dice and dance a jig,
slit the throat of both pope and pig.
It is not heathenism, but Order—
atonement for chaos on the border
between right and wrong, sins and morals;
a contrast of curses and of chorales.
What good is that grave marked Tomorrow?
All that matters now is to drown the sorrow.
For we dance and make merry, knowing life
is but a baby dropped by a bumbling midwife.
So, if the world is nothing but stout sadness,
let us go to the drunken refuge of madness,
stubborn as a donkey in his destitution
and no crazier than a priest steeped in delusion.
See the father who lost to bleeding boils
the children he loved, his wife, the spoils
of a pious life now martyred to idiotic chance,
and so he joins his feet to a heathen dance.
See this small boy, prematurely grown a man
after his family died, leaving this orphan
at a young age and beset with the sores
that took them—give unto him wine and whores
and let him live while he may, today, anon,
for tomorrow will never come, like Canaan,
where the Promised Land’s happy shore
is lapped with blood, and nothing more,
for our lives are meted in thrifty measure
with much of pain and so little of pleasure.
And, so, this beldam—with her back broken
from years of fruitless toil—let her soak in
Dionysian necatar, easing the aches of her limbs
and the hurtful memories whose barbed stems
entwine her heart to prick and bleed—
let drink be her balm, barrels equal to need.
And let the nuns and monks leave their cloisters
and converge in congress, seeding pearls upon oysters,
for the End comes today, and tomorrow comes never
while Death sharpens his sickle blade to swing and sever
every life, ready as a seed ripened full to bloom
while planted in this filthy, diseased mass tomb.
So dance, while you can, and exhaust yourself well,
because Sleep will come, at the end of your tale,
and the earth will continue to orbit a ball of light
while adrift in a void of indifferent Eternal Night.”
Erasmus appeared onstage, where all could see him,
shrugging as he agreed: “Ad libitum—carpe diem.”