If only God would save me,
I would know how to hurt you.
If only God would save me,
I would know who to sell my soul to.
Anything is an autobiography,
but this is a conversation —
William Burroughs insisted
literature lagged 50 years behind painting,
thinking no doubt about abstraction, collage,
fragmentation, his cut-ups.
But whatever that meant (why always 50 years?), or however
he presumed to rile other writers,
poetry probably does lag behind any credible media theory about it —
so that if I put a pine tree
into a poem,
a grove of pine trees
and beyond them the sea,
you’ d think it was the same tree Wordsworth put there;
instead of two obligatory centuries of nature studies, all those
Technicolor vistas, torch songs, couples
drifting through leaves in Salem commercials.
Into one life and out another,
the way a junkie playing a writer,
a writer playing a priest,
so that when I finally blurted out,
You-betrayed-me / I-wounded-you / We’ re-so-unhappy
you assumed the burden of personal urgency,
supposed it was me speaking at the limits of my self-control
and not The Damned Don’ t Cry,
Temptation, and Leave Her to Heaven.
You open your mouth and a tradition dribbles out.
But that’ s mimesis —
how almost impossible to avoid mimesis,
anybody’ s hardest truths prompting the most fractured constructions,
the way to think about God might be
to disobey God,
if only God’ s wish to remain hidden,
so that if everything is an autobiography,
this is a conversion.
As my lives flash before me,
why must the yearning for God
trump all other yearnings?
You often hear converts confess
the drinking, his pills, her sexual addiction,
concealed inside them a yearning for God —
why not the other way around?
The admission of Jesus into your life
concealing instead the wish, say, a need
To be fucked senseless drunk drugged & screaming
Oh God! Oh God! on a hotel bed...
God embraces our yearnings.
That afternoon my father heard his diagnosis of inoperable cancer,
my aunt Barbara demanded we get him to Lourdes
She demanded this with a glass of vodka in her hand —
she demanded this running her fingers up and down my leg —
she demanded this before she passed out in her car —
In the movie of my life,
my father died
after I forgave him,
& when my secret tormentor said may the ghosts of your dreams
gnaw at your belly like a wolf under your jacket,
did she really want revenge,
or was she just killing time?
For me God is a hair shirt, or he’ s nothing;
for me God is a pain in the ass;
that’ s mimesis, again,
this hour I tell you things in confidence,
I might not tell everybody, but I’ ll tell you.
The world is a road under the wall to the church,
the world is a church, & the world is a road,
& the world is a stone wall.
Still, he wanted her the way the Cardinal wanted the Caravaggio,
& when the ill-advised possessor of the painting resisted —
one night Papal Guards searched his house.
Of course contraband came to light, some illegal rifles,
& when the ill-advised possessor of the painting went to prison —
the Cardinal got his Caravaggio.
But I wasn’ t a Cardinal, nephew to the Pope,
and you —
you were not a Caravaggio.
So I asked you to be in my movie.