Aug 15, 2006 Fundamentalist Heart

Normally I don’t recite poetry before I read it, but I improvised this at the reading at Reflections Cafe in Providence tonight. Afterwards I wrote it down in my notebook, and then typed it after the reading. Usually when I improvise a poem, it’s much harder for me to get onto page, afterwards. As post-facto transcriptions go, this is not bad.

The reading, by the way, was @&*#ing awesome. More readers than than at any other reading; the open mic was kick-ass, and went until 10pm. Victor’s set was equally rockin’, and the energy in the room was just amazing. Glad I came out.

Fundamentalist Heart

Call it the week of fundamentalism,

The woman at the airport came first.
She apologized for the way her kids
kept raiding the chairs from my table.
“Are you a school group?” I asked.
“No we’re an orthodox church youth group,” she replied.
“Oh,” I said, “Greek Orthodox?”
No, she said, looking uncomfortable.
“OCA? ” I asked.
No, she said, confused. Well, we’re following the Bible
and the model of the early Christian church,
and we lost our episcopal supervision.
And I said, “Oh, so you’re heretics, then.”

Because Irenaeus,
that 3rd century Christian bombast,
said that Christians stand to their bishops
as the apostles stood to Christ.
“Your bishop told you to love someone,
and you told him NO.”

The second was a Mormon who wanted to convert me.
Never mind that he’s trying to sell me on the idea
that every human will eventually get to rule his own planet.

All together we can’t rule one,
not without poisoning its air
and its soil and its water.
And that’s not including the notion of Jesus
doing a parabolic arc from Jerusalem to Utah.
Why not to Singapore, or Wudan Mountain?
Why should salvation be limited
to two continents, or white men?

The third wanted to witness for Jesus.
He misquotes the Bible to me and the room,
and miscorrects my quotation
mere minutes later.
The room believes him, not me,
because who knows the scriptures better,
the Christian or the guy who makes no claim at all?
We don’t have a Bible to double-check,
but if you can’t take your scriptures on faith,
what can you take on faith?

And all these are
violence and alienation:
people separated from their spiritual leaders;
people thrown out to different worlds
where they can’t do any more damage to each other;
people cut apart their scriptures
to suit their beliefs —
and sure the Devil may quote scripture
to serve his own purposes.

But this is my scripture,
this is my sutra:

I am a heart.
I send out blood,
I send out breath,
I send out life.
And I take them in again,
exhausted and worn down.

I am a heart.
I pump out blood,
I pump out breath,
I pump out life,
and I open to them again,
renewing my world.

I am a heart.
Beat, pump, breathe…
Beat, pump, breathe…
I am a heart:
beat out blood,
open up to life,
beat out life,
open up to love.

I am a heart,
and if I pump out e-mails,
e-mail returns to me.
If I pump out letters,
letters return to me.
If I pump out art,
art returns to me.
And if I pump out love…
surely I shall reap what I sow.

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  1. I woke up thinking about this piece. It’s still with me now.
    It is one of the best things I’ve heard. I was just telling my daughter about it on the phone. Really, I love this.
    Peace to you!

  2. I think I told you…

    I think I told you and Lea the stories so that I’d be able to do the poem. I’ve always been envious of people who can do a poem 1) off-page, and 2) about themselves or what they believe, and I’ve been trying to loosen up my poetic style a little bit. But I’m finding that I have to do it by doing the poem first, and then writing it down. Not always successful — in fact, this is the first time I’ve really been happy with the results. I’ll keep at it.

    Your set was awesome, though. Thanks very much.

  3. Yeah, that piece was fun, especially as you had started telling us some of the stories beforehand. Terribly, terribly cool.

    Thanks for coming out tonight. The whole evening was a blast.

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