John Courtney

(05-22-1982 / Philadelphia)

God Lays Down Her Child


The expensive neighborhoods of human sadness
where we forget our good deeds; how prior to worship
a grasshopper was lured effortlessly to the soft
church steps of unworked hands, how in compound eyes
there was salvation in the loneliness of each other,
a calm duality of fright and beauty folding themselves
into peculiar knowledge, the power in being there,
the perfect drama of grace in original heat.

Money though, the thunder of nature, eyes of
the red-shouldered hawk into a tortoise shell,
a faith that wears itself in flames around
the crumbling architecture of children, ruinous
delusions of flying immortality, a brother who
throws his failings back at the thorn unable
to see how roses wait at the foot of his grave,
the billboard lawyer concocting new disease,
the doctor's finger up his own ass, a cavalcade
of new drugs, the cures in tinted limousine,
a transport of deformity sharpening velvet cloths
hung from the necks of false idols and seated
gently under the urns of the reworked dead.

Our dark house floats in twelve lanes of oil,
we possum in the mines of West Virginia, canaries
forced to sing their golden symphonies underground,
the hearts are handed down pickaxes and chip away
from within, the handshake becomes a fragile wave,
the telephone becomes a third world sky, traffic
jams in the arteries, we send our grandmothers
to work in flower shops when they retire, we
explode because our leaders feed us fear and
lead us to a Roman sunset, a pretty face in
the slow definition of our chemical frontier.

We explode in the boarded up housing of human kindness
where we remember our good deeds; how to kill
a world with progress, how to leave a deer rot
after we take its head home, to zoo the elephant's
memory and set loose the machinery of scholastic charm,
stone pillows of Ceasar, an empire drowning in 12 lanes
of credit, out of the bricks of one god and into another,
the new child's hand approaches with ill will.

Submitted: Tuesday, June 25, 2013
Edited: Tuesday, June 25, 2013

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