When I was a wee child, my tribe here in Georgia decreed that I would be raised as a proper member of the Southern Baptist tribe. I was taken—willingly at first, then with questions at the age of 13, then dragged with chains—to church. I can’t say they didn’t at least try. Someone even told me once that we shouldn’t dance. (As for drinking too much and illicit sex, those astonishing delights were yet to come.)
I began backing away from the Southern Baptist religion, eyes wide with appalled realization, more than fifty years ago. Still, the religion became part of my cultural background, and I willingly draw on it in my writing even now. As striking metaphors go, it’s a gift. This week, I got lazy and could not write a real blog entry, so I’m posting a religion poem I wrote a few weeks ago.
A Summer Evening Near Nacoochee
“I’m getting tired,” the Devil said.
“I just want to sit and drink.
People are lazy and wicked and dumb,
and they don’t need help from me.”
The sunlight poured like golden coins
through the leaves of magnolia trees,
where the Devil sat, too lazy to move.
For all he cared, Hell could freeze.
He opened a bottle of whiskey,
stretched his legs out on the porch.
“And who could think in this heat?” he said.
“It’s hot as a Roman torch.”
He smiled as he looked at the figure
approaching across the back yard.
“I knew you’d show up,” the Devil said.
“I can’t catch you off guard.”
“Just pour me a drink,” said Jesus,
sitting down in a wicker chair.
His face was shining with sweat.
A leather band tied back his hair.
They touched their glasses together,
then each took a heartfelt drink.
They both stared out at the pine trees.
Jesus reached for the bottle and winked.
“Been thinking about something,” he said.
“How would this work for you?
I think we ought to switch jobs.
We could both use something new.”
The Devil laughed and shook his head.
“I guess you’re already drunk.
Before I took that crew of yours,
I’d trade with a desert monk.
“And the way I see it, anyhow,
we already do the same,
but I get quiet benefits,
while you get a better name.”
Jesus sighed and nodded.
“Yeah, you got me there,” he said.
“Just thought I’d try the idea out,
bring it up, see where it led.”
The Devil shuddered, drank, and coughed.
“And it makes my blood run cold,
the idea of all those churches.
How fast would that get old?”
“Tell me about it,” Jesus said,
and he reached for the bottle again.
“In two thousand years I still don’t know
where they got that idea of sin.”
The sound of tree frogs increased
from up in the tall pine trees,
while the cousins passed the bottle,
and wished for a cooler breeze.