The new religion
Each piece written by Barry Silesky
"But you will exceed all of them. For you will sacrifice the man that clothes me." – Gospel of Judas
For centuries, men with garments woven,
trimmed and measured have practiced the chants. Deep
in expensive rooms, experts discuss the translations.
They’re learning the words, anxious to spread the
secrets; not to be remembered, but to understand the
names and descriptions of every part. Is this the food? Is
this the right sound? Together the voices compose a
song, though the language goes on far away. It’s
explaining the landscape, planning the rescue from these
streets after years scuffling amid them. It’s the map we
need, absolute and reliable: there’s the water. The forest.
The stunted pine. Then clouds gather, threatening to
storm, while an organ spits into quiet. It’s a new idea and
it’s taken over. We still don’t know what it is, but it’s
opening day and the stadium’s filled. Any second now
someone’s going to sing. The phone starts ringing. Then
the doorbell. We must know what to do.
Something alive lurks in the center; I’m in a hurry, but I remember the conversation. Maybe it’s a god, or something else divine. Maybe it’s the Real Thing, whatever that is. Of course I have to dig out the point, decorate it in some way others can accept, and they’re all busy somewhere else. Remember Madrid? They say a fault in the earth with that name goes right through this town, but does it matter or am I just filling space? I did go to Barcelona and I still miss it, but I never did get to the capital. The rest is the ongoing drag of music, or some kind of sound backed by language posing the old questions of thesis, intention, idea. If I can understand, even the gray rain can be stunning. It isn’t yet, so in the meantime TV? That book about the shoplifter? The answer should be easy; after all, it’s just idle time. And it’s almost spring again; the smell is everywhere. Still, it’s hard to live this way with everyone on vacation. I have to remember it’s got nothing to do with me. Call it breakfast. It’s ready.
They're exactly the same size, even colored the same,
and for once neither says a thing. Neatly dressed? Naked, more
likely. The business must be settled. No blood, no weapons, only
hands gripping each other's flesh, pulling, twisting until someone
has to scream. But there isn't any sound. Everything the one who
lives here owns is piled underneath the table, and he's trying to
see out the window, to the street, the houses, the clouds scattered
over the lake. Someone gave him a name and we know it, but it
doesn’t matter. He's not going to win, and neither is the other.
There's only this music, grunts filling the background while we
try to plan the next step. It's been going on for years; they're
exhausted and there's no end in sight. Can't they just quit? Sit
down with a glass of water? But they both know who the other
one is, and the problem doesn't go away. We have to know who to
follow, which lesson to learn. Maybe if I take a picture and keep
it. The story's been told for thousands of years. Fewer and fewer
believe it, and the point falls away, but it keeps coming back; or I
do, sharpening the search, honing the interest. This is what
happened. Sooner or later it’s an idea.
“You see people walkin’ down the street, they’re havin’ a hard time livin’ and people treat ‘em like they got a disease.” – Overheard
They’re bobbing their heads, whistling and climbing the
stairs; they’re the friends you always wanted, glad to be around,
no matter what you serve. True, the sunshine helps render the
project worthwhile, almost like a service in the church where
you’ve always belonged. The idea comes with branches spewing
out in different directions so you can jump on, take notes and tell
the story. Yes, the day’s slipping away again with whatever you
thought, only ragged scraps flitting about. But avoid the usual
mistake. You don’t have to go anywhere. The meal is ready and
the flowers are on the way. The crowd is out there, whether or not
you see them. Just be glad if you can. Sure things have broken
down, but each is a new chance, right? I know you feel sick, but
that won’t last either.
Sun breaks over snow after gray hours as an old
symphony drowns in the furnace hum. It works as a reminder:
something else is taking over a country across the world. We
don’t know the language and can only guess at a few sketchy
ideas, but that’s how it begins. The dictator of the country where
ours sent discards refuses to quit. Still, for once the news cheers
us. The TV sports events I fill the nights with will occur again.
The city’s elected a new mayor who promises not to raise taxes.
My hair is washed.
Then remains the problem. This very thing I’m
doing is the answer, I know, but the knowledge doesn’t
help. What’s here is white noise, though it’s not white.
It’s the Florida legislator trying to stop expenses; the
senator who wants to abolish the Education Department.
The child killed by a runaway truck. Still, the
background fits, traffic reports and all. Thus, the
interference is gone. Whoever she is seems gentle and
warm. It takes time to find the language, but it’s there.
None of that solves the problem though, which
is how to get out of this room, and what’s for lunch
anyway? The point is, there are answers. There are
things to do, not that we know what they are yet. The
usual must be skipped over; the “me” is exhausted. The
next season begins now.
From Silesky's collection After the Word
"I am the author of This Disease and One thing That Can Save Us. My poems are forthcoming/in Poetry East, Notre Dame Review, Quick Fiction, etc... along with biographies of Lawrence Ferlinghetti and John Gardner, along with poems and essays in various magazines"