Saturday, April 21, 2007

The Lung-Sponges

At the Easter vigil in St. Luke-in-the-Field,
where my friend Y was to be confirmed,
I saw for the first time in my life
more men than women in a church.

A gay-friendly church.
As in children-welcoming.
Or dogs-permitting.
Yes, I am hostile to the Church.

It wasn’t always like this.
Two years ago, when Y was getting baptized,
the music was soft as feathers and powerful as wings,
and carried back a young man yearning to die and rise again.

No young man came up to my pew in St. Luke.
So I punished him.
How could you have loved
God who killed by water, stuffing noses, mouths and lungs?

How could you have trusted
God who saved the Jews and drowned the Egyptians,
then sided with the Christians against the Jews,
then beheaded Catholics for not being Protestants?

I did not stay for the Eucharist. I did not talk to my friend Y.
My missing young man frightens me
for I know he lurks,
perhaps round the corner of the church.

Plan for this poem-in-progress


Greg said...

This poem's self-acknowledgedly "hostile" connection between "gay-friendly" and "dogs-permitting" resonated strongly with me. I’m a gay man who has encountered "gay-friendly" religion, and while I realize and appreciate that "gay-friendly" religion has helped some gay people, my appreciation is not deep. When I was coming of age sexually in the 1980’s, the liberal church where I went was not gay-friendly, and the public schools I attended were gay-deadly.

During my second reading of this poem, the italiziced lines hit me really deep; I cried while reading them. (I'm not sure if that's what you intended but anyway I did.) I am saddened and horrified by that monstrous religious history and by those monstrous old religious stories which people stupidly-dangerously-destructively-childishly-uncritically continue recycling in “pious” rituals. Maybe we (lots of people) can develop ever-better strategies to point to, and then within ourselves to dissolve & to render impotent, our lingering images resembling the old god and the young man in your poem. These could be new strategies of poetry, of meditation, of philosophical discussion, of criticism, of connection between and among people, of community-making, of family-making…

In my reading, the poem’s juxtaposition of old god and young man is excellent—it’s powerful aesthetically and profound in the meaning it points to.

To me the poem’s expression of fear at the end is right - it makes sense. It seems to me that I feel a kindred fear.

Thank you, Jee Leong.

Jee Leong Koh said...

Thank you, Greg, for your long and heartfelt response to the poem. I am only beginning to think about the implications of Christian imagery that seeps into so much of our non-religious discourse. You may have read my stab at this line of thought in my poem, "Jaw-hinge, Roof of the Mouth."

Greg said...

I just went back and read that poem again. I'm interested in its move of explicitly valuing the bodies, but NOT the supposedly "superior" "souls," of the very myth-makers & symbol-makers whose inventive playing around, it might appear, formed foundations for harmful understandings of body/soul separation that plague, & have plagued, so many people. I agree with the poem that a child could have made up the story of Noah--massive death-fantasies (as well as unusual-house fantasies) are natural to children. Or maybe the Bible story's combination of sexually reproductive pairings and mass genocide came out of an adolescent brain brooding over sex, death, and its own desperate impatience for grown-up power. (Once I heard a sermon I liked that represented the Old Testament God as psychologically adolescent.)

To me it helps to imagine those old myths & symbols as coming (as they must, on some level, have come) out of people's play; imagining them that way can, perhaps, help dispel people’s cheap fever-dreaming about meanings that fall to earth, pre-formed and absolutely true, at the will of a “super-human” and remote heavenly authority.

Jee Leong Koh said...

Thanks, Greg, for your provocative thoughts. You read my intentions in the poem with great astuteness.