[Here, finally are the last two sections of the exhaustingly grim long poem I have chosen to entitle 17. This poem was especially hard to write. I am at once proud to have finished it and glad to be rid of it. I derive some cold comfort at least from the fact that it took me only one year to complete, compared to 25 for my last long poem, 64. Both poems ultimately nauseate me; they have a sort of emetic quality: more smelling salts meant to rouse us from our stupor or exorcise demons than perfumes intended to inspire. Although I do not use the word ‘I’ on any occasion in this poem, even in the mouths of the many fictional others who inhabit it, this piece is, nevertheless, the most intensely personal poem I have produced to date.
The poem is also both religious and political. Section 16 begins with two ironic quotations, one from the Catholic Church, one from the Church of Scientology, both of which are basically saying the same thing. The final section begins with an overarching quotation from an article in The Journal of Peasant Studies, which also serves as the epigraph or epitaph to the poem as a whole.]
“What years of Purgatory will there be for those… who have no difficulty at all in deferring their prayers to another time on the excuse of having to do some pressing work! If we really desired… happiness.., we should avoid the little faults as well as the big ones…”– (Saint) Jean-Baptiste-Marie Vianney cited in The Catholic Reader http://thecatholicreader.blogspot.com/2013/06/purgatory-quotes.html
“Thetans are all-knowing beings, and became bored because there were no surprises. …The single most important desire in all beings is to have a… ‘game’ and… ‘not know’ certain things. Since Thetans knew everything, this required them to abandon or suppress perceptions and knowledge. Over time, the loss of perception accumulated and certain Thetans began to cause harm to others…. Thetans came to learn contrition, punishing themselves for their own “harmful” acts.” — Former Scientologist Jon Atack in A Piece of Blue Sky.
Redcap wakes up in the forest,
covered in morning dew. She
carefully removes the leaves from sleeping
Hansel and Gretel. Mum has gone to heaven.
Redcap leads the kids out of the woods
into the new planned town.
Workers doff their workers’ caps to the trio
as they work on the new road. Children play
in the school playground free of auto-glass wounds
or gunshot residue, kicking up a healthy helluva noise.
No din of firearms, motor vehicles or dogs
dogs the calm, sweet-smelling air.
She and Hen peek out bickering through net curtains to observe
the new arrivals arriving, as Deb is lost
upstairs in the music of her Walkman,
characters from Aussie soap-operas preparing
scrumptious cuts of meat on barbecues out back
around the greenhouse.
Oedipus and Cassandra sit atop a rose-lined stone wall
and watch the mower do his patient work with scissors
on the grass of verges and front gardens and cuddle up
to one another and purr. The bullies have set up a hair salon
on the corner that especially caters for afros, implants,
and chic hipster coiffure. Guido and Tito
have an early-morning light-hearted radio chat show
that plays all the old songs.
Everyone is always on their best behavior. Especially the police,
who toe their beat chatting with neighbors and cleaning up shit. Steph
is now the Chief Constable and needs no gun. Kids sit and read books
around the useless petrol lake in the park,
as old folk snooze in deckchairs.
The council plans to have it drained once and for all.
The war memorial has long ago
tumbled to the ground and its rubble
has been used for social housing.
Dot and Dorothy exchange old stories in a well-kept old people’s home.
A killing look is enough to put Mike in his place should he ever darken her door.
In the Counting House, Princes Cosimo, Lorenzo and Giovanni, Niccoló and Alessandro debate before a host of popes, doges, presidents and CEOs, pushing money around. Those hail Maries that got him out of Hell by a whisker, that stack of outstanding indulgence payments. Deals are struck; inducements offered up. “We did the deal with the Almighty for the right to this spiritual real estate, built this place up on sweat and blood and treasure, treachery and peril to our own souls”, Leo and Leonardo remind them passionately. “We’ve kept a pretty tight shop up to now. We owe it to the guy upstairs and the folk we keep here to keep that record up.”
Song # 10 Purgatory Paupers Motet
We languish in this workhouse,
so long as we are poor.
We work hard to atone for sins
and earn our avatars.
Our avatars fly up to earth
to plead our noble cause.
Their banknotes guarantee our worth
according to their laws.
We feed on profit that
no magnate can assure
and fall on shares
the mowers in the market bear.
“Is there a forest in the world that does not have a history of violence in its understory?”
–Nancy Lee Peluso (2017) “Whigs and Hunters: the origins of the Black Act by E.P. Thompson” in The Journal of Peasant Studies. 44:1 309-321. Routledge.
Former lovers go about their little purgatorial houses
like ghosts gathering indulgences, trying to put things straight,
crying out for pity in the night. No way of putting them down.
And Dad pops up drunk to berate them now and then. The houses
Jack and Jerry built jostle on shifting sands. And the mafia thugs,
priests, scientologists, party pollsters, Jehovah’s witnesses
and travelling salespeople, beggars, tax-farmers and bailiffs
come round to pick up the protection money, the interest,
and the hush fund from time to time. Everyone complains but nothing is done.
There is no justification by faith, election or confession: just
the end of the line.