by on April 17, 2015 :: 0 comments

When I was a child, I spoke as a child,
I understood as a child and would act
Out my own version of Pilgrim’s Progress
On the beach, on vacation. My brother
Would get bored and wander off, so I’d be
Christian up against a Worldly Wiseman,
Fighting Giant Despair, and I’d walk the
Wall of Salvation. You know your childhood
Was odd when Bunyan is fun, yet he was
To me. At least I wasn’t in school: the

Beach was better than another church, and
No more preaching for an instant, sweeter
Still. Blessed in many ways, I never feared
Mother would sneak drinks, or Father leaving
As soon as he could. I only feared what
I heard on Sundays, God’s disgust with my
Sins; how all sin was the same sin, and you
Were as bad, if not worse, than your neighbor:
The Lord saw clean thru you; his hatred of
Sin was perfect, enduring forever.

My wife, late one night, described playing “Class
Struggle” with her Dad. The board game had been
Invented by someone, I am guessing,
With way too much spare time and students who
Slept thru his pensées. Instead of what her
Friends played—where you moved pieces around a
Board and with any luck won all the deeds
To the hotels and the money and the
Railroads–Rachel did not get to pick a
Token, since “No one chooses which class they

Are born into.” This game was severe: you
Lost points for pitying workers or blaming
Blacks or Jews. To win really big you had
To know your Marx, even the early pamphlets.
When she was a bad token all she could
Do was start wars or crush a union: the
Rules were strict. A good token meant she could
Be a shop steward who made ATU
Proud, whiter than snow, and got more rolls of
The dice for caring about poverty.

I wonder if her father actually
Enjoyed this game: Worker v Parasite
Is always rigged one way or the other,
And, just like my Sunday school lessons, dull.
At some point in each life the child must wake
Up and know his mother human, and his
Father, fallible, and yet we seldom
See someone who truly breaks from what
They learned from the first teachers. My Father-
In-law had troubles with the unions;

They were rough with him, then rougher. But he
Made sure his daughter knew the words to Pete
Seeger songs and she’d never take work, or
The people who did real work, for granted.
I go to no church: and won’t, and yet each
Poem of mine owes something to Psalms I
No longer sing. There’s more to that book than
We see—the poet lays down his bed in
Hell, and “thou art there.” No one outruns what
Made them new. Just today I get an email

From a studiedly neutral, carefully
Bi-partisan group, telling me there is
Still time to “Fight for a world that is fair
And just,” a gospel learned from prophets, a
Pure blazon that man must always mean more
Than money. And how good to see these words,
And fair and just are what we would most love,
Even if some of those prophets saw all
Too clearly, and there’d be another great fall,
Leaving not one stone on a stone.

editors note:

Our dialectic debate ends with an unanswered question, “After the Fall, will there be left any force of will to go on?” – mh

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