Poetry: The Book of my Enemy — Will Those Responsible Come Forward? | clivejames.com
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Will Those Responsible Come Forward?

May the Lord have mercy on all those peoples
Who suffer from a perversion of religion —
Or, to put it in a less equivocating way,
Who suffer from an excess of religion —
Or, to come right out with it,
Who suffer from religion.

Let Him tell those catholic Protestants or protestant Catholics
Who in Northern Ireland go to bed on Saturday night
Looking forward to a morning of Holy Worship
That just this once they should make other plans —
Have a heavy cold, a stomach upset or a pulled hamstring
Severe enough to render them immobile,
With something similar for their children —
So that they will not be there to form a congregation
In a church just big enough for a small massacre.
Arrange this reprieve, Lord,
And if you can’t manage that much then for Christ’s sake
Hand the whole deal over to Allah.

May the Lord with the assistance of Allah
Give heed to the cries of those children in Beirut
Who have the dubious luck to be ten years old and under
While dwelling in the vicinity of a PLO faction
Currently being wiped out by another PLO faction,
And kindly swing it so that the incoming rockets
Do not dismember their small persons irreparably.
Children older than ten years we will give up on,
Not wanting the moon,
And their mothers, needless to say, are for the high jump.

Fix it, Lord. Get Al on to it,
And if it turns out to be more than you can handle
Raise Jehovah on the horn.

May the Lord and Allah with Jehovah’s proverbial
In-depth back-up and sales apparatus
Make a concerted effort to cut the crap,
For the following reasons among others:

Lest at least two kinds of Christians during their annual shoot-out
Bisect an old lady who hears the word ‘Duck!’
But can’t hit the deck because of sciatica
(May her stoop be steep) —

Lest the Druze and the Jews or the Juze and the Drews,
When shelling each other from somewhere each side
Of a ridge or a bridge,
Cascade hot shrapnel on the intervening hospital
Whose patients suffer from mental disorders,
And thus exacerbate in those inherently unstable minds
An already acute sense of insecurity
(May their straitjackets be flak jackets) —

Lest Iraq and Iran or Iran and Iraq go to rack and ruin
Not just in the standard Islamic manner
Of finding each other insufficiently fanatical,
But with an ironic new wrinkle
By which the hitherto unapproachably sordid
Ayatollah or Arsola
Is upstaged by his own appointee,
That even more sadistic fuckwit and fruitcake
The Hayula or Payola,
Who has women tortured in front of their husbands
As a forceful reminder, no doubt supererogatory,
That you can’t fight central mosque
(May their screams be deafening) —

Who also, if that doesn’t do the trick,
Has the children tortured along with their mothers
(May they all go crazy quickly),
The object being to make the fathers admit
That they plotted the regime’s overthrow —
A pretty fantastic charge when you consider
That the regime’s overthrow hasn’t yet been accomplished
By Allah functioning either on his tod
Or in combination with the Lord, Jehovah,
Buddha, the Great Spirit and each and every other
Recognized form of God —

Always supposing that They are working on it.
Always supposing that They care
About that or anything else.

But this is the sin of despair.

Note (from Collected Poems)

The line ‘Lest the Druze and the Jews or the Juze and the Drews’ can’t be made to work when recited. After I found this out the hard way, I took care to make every line of verse I wrote pass the test of being read aloud.

Archive Editor’s note

The reader’s accent is relevant. Modern English pronunciation has lost, possibly through American influence, vowel-sound distinctions between such pairs as ‘blue’ and ‘blew’, ‘through’ and ‘threw’, ‘wait’ and ‘weight’, ‘to’ and ‘too’, and many more: in Barnsley (South Yorkshire) where I grew up, ‘road’, ‘rowed’ and ‘rode’ are still quite distinct to a native speaker — SJB