Tuesday, 16 August 2016

The Gospel According to Me

In centuries to come, scholars and divines shall engage in heated
debate and repeated controversies
over the accuracy of the Gospel According to Me.
Progressives and sceptics shall challenge whether I existed at all,
point to apparent anachronisms in the texts, as
conservatives shall alter history textbooks given to
schoolchildren in Texas
to fit the truth as perceived.

The Kingdom of Heaven is like
An evacuee who, not even two years old when made to go away,
Stands, aged five, on a railway platform, about a week after VE day
Not knowing who will come for him,
Who sees one kindly, beautiful woman after another,
And each time thinks, are you my mother, please be my mother,
And each time it is another little boy who is taken
And he is alone now when a scruffy woman with bad teeth
And the smell of cigarettes and poverty
Calls his name and he thinks, I don't want you,
I don't want you to be my mother, and she is,
And he carries the guilt of that thought
For the rest of his life until one Monday night
He dies suddenly, aged sixty-one, in his own kitchen,
Of regret and a faulty heart.

Devotees shall consider the miracles and portents
in the Gospel According to Me;
they shall consider the meanings of the stories,
hold them dear, write children's books
where I am good looking and blonde and tall
and dressed in perfectly clean white and blue shirts
which are not covered in baby sick or whiteboard ink,
and they shall find meanings and yet take literally
the occasion where I say a single word
and everything turns to shit.
And they shall not wonder whether I resent their prayers,
their demands to be heard, their conditional love.

The Kingdom of Heaven is like
A woman who hears voices, dreams dreams and has visions,
And who one day decides that she shall visit a Spiritualist church,
And say, look, I hear voices, dream dreams and have visions,
So tell me, what can I do?
And the people at the Spiritualist church tell her that she is
A medium between the world of the living and the world of the dead,
And they tell her that some of the voices lie,
And that some of the visions are false,
And they add that most people will not understand what she is,
And that it is better to stay quiet.
So she never gets sent away
And instead she marries and has children,
And apart from a tendency to declare people evil
And a sense of entitlement that many find inexplicable,
Most people don't think her that strange at all.

They shall argue over the different textual traditions, the different versions
of the Gospel According to Me,
Wondering if at the root of these differing accounts a common source Q exists
That illuminates the origins of my story; until it is found, they say, they
shall work create a pure record of my sayings,
making use of the principle: lectio difficilior,
which is where in the choice between one or another of two readings
the scholar assumes that the less likely or more unexpected
is more likely to be true, since the natural inclination of the copyist is
to correct and make safe.

The Kingdom of Heaven is like
Two people who have a thing in a box,
And they are scared to open the box, lest it ruin their lives.
But one day, they take the thing out of the box, and they examine it,
Turning it this way and that
And then they fold it up neatly
And return it to the box
And say to themselves and each other
How foolish we were to be frightened that the thing might come out of the box,
For see, it has come out of the box, and we examined it,
And turned it this way and that
And we folded it up neatly
And put it back in the box,
And it shall not come out again, and nothing has changed.
And each of them looks longingly at the box from time to time
And secretly hopes that it might come out again.

People shall die over the interpretation of the Gospel According to Me.
They shall fight wars and burn at stakes and go to electric chairs,
and some shall point at what I actually said, and say look,
he said that he wasn't special,
that anyone's work could have ended up here,
that he could have been anyone,
and that he isn't coming back, not now
not any time soon
maybe not ever
and they shall take these people
and burn them at stakes and put them in electric chairs
and I think that if I knew that this was going to happen
I am not sure how I might feel about it.

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