Posted in Glit Lit

Poets on Jesus (Limited Edition)

“Even a Saint Won’t Protect You: Use a Condom,”  photo by Steve Butterman, São Paulo, BrazilEven a Saint Won’t Protect You: Use a Condom,” photo by Steve Butterman, São Paulo, Brazil

Because I live on the beach in what some folks call old Florida, there are a fair number of ponytailed guys in my neighborhood who look like Jesus. One, in particular, drives a pick-up and loves animals, even abandoned beach cats. I don’t know if my neighbor, Pete, is a poet or not. He looks like a middle-aged, hard-drugging Jesus to me, so he could be. We say hi to each other most evenings. And if a hurricane came along, I know he’d share his canned chili and Easy Cheese. One weekend he parked his truck crooked to keep tourists out of our lot and blocked my space by accident. When I politely tapped on his door to move his truck, he yelled from the shower: Park on the goddamn grass, asshole.

Jesus, I said to myself.

Once in a while a poet comes along who thinks he gets Jesus. This is my thesis. The “thinks he” qualification is important. I contemplated taking it out, so that my thesis wouldn’t sound watery, or worse, judgmental. Finally, I left it in, and there it remains, giving me away as a weird Jesus cynic while I write this on a sunny Easter in old Florida surrounded by seedy holy old Floridians. Tourists clutter the beach after going to church on the mainland. (There are no churches on the island, only sea.) Somewhere, a poet is writing about Jesus.

Goodtime Jesus

by James Tate

Jesus got up one day a little later than usual. He had been dream-
ing so deep there was nothing left in his head. What was it?
A nightmare, dead bodies walking all around him, eyes rolled
back, skin falling off. But he wasn’t afraid of that. It was a beau-
tiful day. How ’bout some coffee? Don’t mind if I do. Take a little
ride on my donkey, I love that donkey. Hell, I love everybody.

(from Riven Doggeries, Ecco, 1979)

And singing about Jesus.

Jesus was a sailor
When He walked upon the water
And He spent a long time watching
From His lonely wooden tower

And when He knew for certain
Only drowning men could see Him
He said,”All men will be sailors then
Until the sea shall free them”

(excerpt from “Suzanne,” by Leonard Cohen)

A lot of poets are pissed off at Jesus, and with good reason, of course. Poets should be pissed off at something, if not everything. If I stay down below the height of my window sill, I can’t see the tourists driving up and down the street looking for a parking spot, and I can’t see them dragging their beach paraphernalia along the sidewalk, and I can’t feel guilty about another wasted opportunity for exercise and a Vitamin D fix. In the end, we all have our versions of heaven and hell.

Emptying Town

by Nick Flynn

I want to erase your footprints
from my walls. Each pillow
is thick with your reasons. Omens

fill the sidewalk below my window: a woman
in a party hat, clinging
to a tin-foil balloon. Shadows

creep slowly across the tar, someone yells, “Stop!”
and I close my eyes. I can’t watch

as this town slowly empties, leaving me
strung between bon-voyages, like so many clothes
on a line, the white handkerchief

stuck in my throat. You know the way Jesus

rips open his shirt
to show us his heart, all flaming and thorny,
the way he points to it. I’m afraid

the way I’ll miss you will be this obvious.

I have a friend who everyone warns me
is dangerous, he hides
bloody images of Jesus
around my house, for me to find

when I come home; Jesus
behind the cupboard door, Jesus tucked

into the mirror. He wants to save me
but we disagree from what. My version of hell
is someone ripping open his shirt

and saying, Look what I did for you. . .

(from Some Ether, Graywolf Press, 2000)

In 1972 Anne Sexton published “The Jesus Papers” in The Book of Folly. All nine pieces are neutral on the heaven versus hell issue, but they offer controversy in many other ways, often regarding sex, always regarding divinity. All are highly recommended.

Jesus Awake

by Anne Sexton

It was the year
of the How to Sex Book,
the Sensuous Man and Woman were frolicking
but Jesus was fasting.
He ate His celibate life.
The ground shuddered like an ocean,
a great sexual swell under His feet.
His scrolls bit each other.
He was shrouded in gold like nausea.
Outdoors the kitties hung from their mother’s tits
like sausages in a smokehouse.
Roosters cried all day, hammering for love.
Blood flowed from the kitchen pump
but He was fasting.
His sex was sewn onto Him like a medal
and His penis no longer arched with sorrow over Him.
He was fasting.
He was like a great house
with no people,
no plans.

(from The Complete Poems, Houghton Mifflin, 1981)

My neighbor Pete tucks his hair up under his baseball cap sometimes. He and his wife feed the cats that people throw away on the beach. I’m not saying he reminds me of Jesus in any way but looks. I’m certainly not about to capitalize Pete’s pronoun.

When I lived in Harlem in the late eighties, early nineties, my partner and I would open our back door on Easter morning and listen to gospel from the neighborhood. We’d dance around the kitchen making breakfast. We couldn’t help ourselves.

–Maureen Seaton, April 8, 2012

Posted in Glit Lit, Politics

“Uterus Is Not a Dirty Word” and Other Body Politics (& Poetics)

blue=uterus=pretty

I “incorporated” my uterus today and it felt good. Somewhat weird for me, I admit, a non-incorporated independent cowgirl sort of poet—not a company woman or an entrepreneur, not a commodity specialist or even a worth-her-salt consumer. Still, my uterus is my own business now, I’ve got a certificate to prove it, and I owe it all to Susannah Randolph, the uncanny, and her husband Scott Randolph, the canny. Or vice versa. Either way, she’s got a uterus and he’s Florida’s Democratic House Representative from Orlando. (Don’t confuse him with debonair Randolph Scott, the actor, or with full-of-hot-air Rick Scott, the so-called Governor of Florida. Thanks.)

So: Susannah said to her husband Scott at dinner one night that if she would incorporate her uterus, maybe Republicans would drop the 18 anti-abortion measures they’re considering during the legislative session. I wish I knew what Scott and Susannah were having for dinner that night or if she’d just read my favorite poem by Lucille Clifton to Scott over mango salsa and chips, but This Is What Happened After That (very cool):


 

For my part, I thought you might like to look at what three poets have to say. Truth be told, poets have been incorporating our uteruses for years.


Wandering Uterus

By Leslie Adrienne Miller

Leonardo believed that semen came down
from the brain through a channel in the spine.

And that female lactation held its kick off
in the uterus. Not as bad as Hippocrates,

who thought the womb wandered the ruddy
crags of a woman’s body, wreaking a havoc

whenever it lodged, shoving aside
more sensible organs like the heart.

All manner of moral failings, snits,
and panics were thus explained, the wayward

organ floating like Cleopatra’s barge
down the murky canal of any appendage

or tying up at the bog of the throat.
One can’t help but imagine a little halved

walnut of a boat like that in Leonardo’s
drawing, the curled meat of the fetus

tucked inside, harboring near a naughty eye
or rebellious ear that never can hear

what a man might mean when he says yes
or
always. It’s all still beautifully true

what these good scientists alleged: the brain
is as good a place as any for the manufacture

of evanescence, and why not allow
that the round and sturdy skiff of the uterus

may float and flaunt its special appetite for novelty,
even if we dub it dumb, lined with tentacles,

many-chambered, and errant as the proverbial knight
seeking out adventure, but loyal to one queen.

(Originally published in The Kenyon Review, 2006)

 

Poem to my uterus

By Lucille Clifton

you uterus
you have been patient
as a sock
while i have slippered into you
my dead and living children
now
they want to cut you out
stocking i will not need
where i am going
where am i going
old girl
without you
uterus
my bloody print
my estrogen kitchen
my black bag of desire
where can i go
barefoot
without you
where can you go
without me

(From Quilting, BOA Editions, 2000)

 

In Celebration of My Uterus

By Anne Sexton

Everyone in me is a bird.

I am beating all my wings.

They wanted to cut you out

but they will not.

They said you were immeasurably empty

but you are not.

They said you were sick unto dying

but they were wrong.

You are singing like a school girl.

You are not torn.

 

Sweet weight,

in celebration of the woman I am

and of the soul of the woman I am

and of the central creature and its delight

I sing for you. I dare to live.

Hello, spirit. Hello, cup.

Fasten, cover. Cover that does contain.

Hello to the soil of the fields.

Welcome, roots.

 

Each cell has a life.

There is enough here to please a nation.

It is enough that the populace own these goods.

Any person, any commonwealth would say of it,

It is good this year that we may plant again

and think forward to a harvest.

A blight had been forecast and has been cast out.”

Many women are singing together of this:

one is in a shoe factory cursing the machine,

one is at the aquarium tending a seal,

one is dull at the wheel of her Ford,

one is at the toll gate collecting,

one is tying the cord of a calf in Arizona,

one is straddling a cello in Russia,

one is shifting pots on the stove in Egypt,

one is painting her bedroom walls moon color,

one is dying but remembering a breakfast,

one is stretching on her mat in Thailand,

one is wiping the ass of her child,

one is staring out the window of a train

in the middle of Wyoming and one is

anywhere and some are everywhere and all

seem to be singing, although some can not

sing a note.

 

Sweet weight,

in celebration of the woman I am

let me carry a ten-foot scarf,

let me drum for the nineteen-year-olds,

let me carry bowls for the offering

(if that is my part).

Let me study the cardiovascular tissue,

let me examine the angular distance of meteors,

let me suck on the stems of flowers

(if that is my part).

Let me make certain tribal figures

(if that is my part).

For this thing the body needs

let me sing

for the supper,

for the kissing,

for the correct

yes.

 

From The Complete Poems of Anne Sexton (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1981).

 

More Political Stuff:

Susannah Randolph’s website: www.pinksliprick.com

Scott Randolph’s petition: http://signon.org/sign/uterus-is-not-a-dirty

More background:

http://www.miamiherald.com/2011/04/06/v-fullstory/2154351/from-the-florida-house-to-national.html#ixzz1JG0opMPH

and http://www.miamiherald.com/2011/04/10/2157896/anti-abortion-legislation-goes.html

How to incorporate your uterus: http://www.incorporatemyuterus.com/

 

Maureen Seaton, 4/11/11