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Tuesday, 24 February 2009


He was my friend. I pistol-whipped him
with a wooden gun my father made.
(War time: such trifles were in short supply.)
Bad enough if I had hit him in the street,
but doing so in church, my would-be crime
became a sin. He'd reached across the pews
to snatch my illustrated, treasured
Holy Bible from my grasp. In doing so
he'd torn the prophet Moses clean in half,
ripped out the the Ten Commandments and had trashed
the Golden Calf. I lashed out, blind in a
red mist of rage, the gun - my contribution
to the Sunday School's Toy Sunday service -
firmly in my hand. The priest, as blind as I
in his red mist, then missed the obvious:
would not allow the righteousness of my
response, my holy anger, pious grief....
And so I left, walked out on all those
coloured stamps of Jesus making wine
and bringing long-dead people back to life -
images we'd added to our albums
week by week. I went to seek a better way:
agnostic for a month, then atheist for two.
I bought a book on Godlessness,
and reading it, became - I know not how -
my erstwhile friend's companion once again.


Jinksy said...

If this was following your nose, do it again! I loved it! x

Dave King said...

Woops, I found the brick wall! The post, yes you could say that was following my nose! Thanks for the kind words.

Stephen Dell'Aria said...

I do not wish to offend my religious friends but I am not particularly religious, nonetheless, it may prove useful at the time of death (this is not meant to be sarcastic). That said, I think I see in your story that our human reactions occur whether in the context of religion or outside of it. Religion itself is no cloak for our behavior even thought it may seem to motivate it. In reality, it does not. It just pretends to. We are the same; reacting to insult, pain, pressure and emotions as humans, not spiritual beings and perhaps that is how it should be. Religion is neutral, it has no opinion, which is a better place for it, I think. We can trust what we see and when we do the world appears more logical and understandable. When we die, the spirits may lift us if we hope but until then, what we can prove is what is best to believe……or so I think.

Unknown said...

I enjoyed reading this, Dave. But I would love to know what made you write it?

Jim Murdoch said...

I find the distinction between agnosticism, atheism and godlessness interesting. I have to say although I am now resolutely irreligious I really don't feel I come under any of these headings. The position I take when pushed is that I don't care if there's a God. I would have thought I could call it indifferentism but the Catholic Church has already pinched that one; indifferentism, as far as they're concerned, is the stance that one religion is as good as another and, of course, I don’t hold with that.

Interesting piece, Dave. A bit prosaic mind.

Tess Kincaid said...

I love the line "The priest, as blind as I in his red mist, then missed the obvious."

WT still has the little wooden gun his father carved him.

Unknown said...

Really like this-- the parenthetical expression in the third line, the line about Moses, Toy Sunday, the use of red mist, & a really intriguing ending.

Anonymous said...

Another vivid and characterful depiction of time, place and incident, Dave. And prosaic? nah - a steady rhythm underpins it, driving the narrative towards its slightly quizzical final line. Loved it.

Unknown said...

Am I interpreting correctly that in losing your religion you found your faith? This is so well written, fantastic imagery and something I can totally identify with as I went down a similar path myself.

Walter said...

I love the imagery that "red mist of rage" brings to mind.

A Cuban In London said...

I love this poem. Well, I should, shouldn't I? I am an atheist.

Greetings from London.

Kaylia Metcalfe said...

I liked this... the idea that we can come back to things that we left in a moment of... emotion, is sweet.

ArtSparker said...

"The Poison Tree" in reverse?

Art Durkee said...

I feel like the end of the story is missing, even though the poem ends; but it ends on a mystery.

Do you know about Meister Eckhart? One of his sayings was, and this is pretty profound if you think about it, "I pray to God to rid me of God." He meant, everything we think God is, isn't. maybe that's akin to where you ended up in the poem?

Lynda Lehmann said...

A slice of life/incident beautifully fleshed out.

I'm curious as to why he'd wrested your bible from your grasp. Did he have a particular motivation for this?

The ideas of "holy anger" and "pious grief" lend themselves to discussion. When and how is anger justified? When and how should we act on it? Where does perspective come into the picture?

Your page is loading fine for me now, I'm happy to say! :)

Rosaria Williams said...

Dave, you are saying a whole lot in this one. What happens in churches and temples is just what you described, acts and interpretations.

"The priest, as blind as I in his red mist..." This is poignant.

LR Photography said...

I believe there are some red mist for somes priests...

Fantastic Forrest said...

Sweet! LOVED the parting of Moses.

My favorite commentator on religion is comedian Dara O'Briain. His explanation of the Lord's Prayer as part of a bit on mixed marriages is priceless. Check out http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v0thRUS1wUw for a very BIG laugh.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Have you just written this poem Dave or has the incident been in your mind for all those years? If the latter then how have you managed to write such an "of the moment" poem about it - excellent stuff - and what of your erstwhile friend - where is he now?

hope said...

I enjoyed the imagery this one brought out...especially parting Moses. Nicely done.

Anonymous said...

Nice... and I am glad I stumbled on this the day it was published... I too liked the imagery and as a born again UU and former Catholic I connect with much of it a personal level.

Just started my own humble/feeble attempt at a blog titled "Pistol Whipped Poetry" which is how I got here... I'll add your link and check more of what you post in the future...

Namaste, John


I love it! :)

Dave King said...

So many interesting points for discussion, there! I really don't know whether to call myself religious or not. Certainly, I am not offended. I was not religious at the time I pistol-whipped my friend! Nor anti-religious thereafter. I eventually became a Methodist, but a rather heretical one. Now I'm religious in the way that many folk are: I believe in that dimension and believe it to be of great significance. Beyond that, I am still a seeker.

I have often heard the usefulness of religion at the point of death argued before, but maybe not quite in the way that you are positing it.

I do agree that we are fully human whether acting in the context of religion or outside it, but I do believe religion motivates some actions. As to it beoing a cloak for actions... I'll have to think about that. Not sure about religion being neutral either. In what context?

Thanks for such a full comment.

I hadn't thought about - or expected that one! I did think hard about whether I should post it. I did not write it as a piece of confessional poetry, though obviously it is that. Just part of the great quest to understand myself, I suppose.

The ditinction between Atheism and Agnosticism is one I made then, aged aroung 8 or 9 I think, not one I would make in the same way now, though obviously there is a distinction to be made by those who thrive on such. I sisn't know about the Catholic's use of Indifferentism.
I first of all read your last sentence as: a bit of prosaic mind. It was then!

I have to admit that I, too, enjoyed that bit - though for all the wrong reasons.

Thanks John. Useful, that feedback.

Thanks Dick. The quizzical final line, I find quite pleasing - your expression, that is, not the actual line!

Not quite, I didn't actually have a religion at that point, though many years later it would be quite true to say that of me. Strange you should have winkled it out!

I can still feel it now. I have never felt anything quite like it since - or before. It is the most vivid aspect of the whole incident.

A Cuban in London
Yes, I guess it gives you a head start.

True, too, I believe.

Yes, I suppose so, Hadn't thought of it, though. Well put.

That's deep. I do know of Meister Eckhart. I read him quite extensively in college, but I don't think I ever came across your quote - or I've forgotten. Off the top of my head, I think I can say Amen to it, but I need to re-run it a bit first.

I don't know why he took the Bible. Maybe he was jealous. I don't think I ever knew - or, again, it is quite possible that I have forgotten.
The questions you raise seem fundamental to the incident. Could stand much argument, I think.

Or was he, I wonder? That was him seen from a very biased viewpoint, of course.

I guess we all ahev our own mists - though that was the only time I had that particular one.

Fantastic Forrest
Thanks for that. Will do.

Weaver of Grass
I have just written it. I penned a draft a few days ago, then redrafted it the day before I posted it. But, yes, it has been on my mind 60 years or so.

Thanks for that. Much appreciated.

I must have wander over to your blog. Thanks for that.


Jeanne Estridge said...

There was a discussion once, in my Sunday School class, about what constitutes righteous anger. Pretty much every example the class came up with, our teacher nixed. Apparently it's only righteous anger if Jesus feels it as he did in the Temple with the moneylenders.

For myself, I struggle with the fig tree incident. It was out-of-season for figs, and no matter from which direction I view it, Christ comes across looking petulant on that one. Either that, or it's okay to blast trees for refusing to bear fruit-on-demand.

The lady in Red said...

Dear Dave, your post is a moment´s reflexion!

Best wishes,

Karen said...

Dave - This has a great rhythm to it and unexpected imagery in the tearing of Moses, the Jesus stamps. You've truly re-created a time, a place, an incident -- a great story and fitting conclusion. Notice that I'm avoiding a discussion of religion. I find that people believe what they believe, and my saying yea or nay won't matter a bit.

Cloudia said...

Yes! A complete and perfect little gem of a post. Revealing. Tasty.

Marion McCready said...

some nice details here, dave. I particularly like the 'coloured stamps of Jesus making wine'.
I find Jim's view interesting about not caring whether there is a god or not.

Shrinky said...

A child of 8 or 9 would quite rightly feel a pious anger at having his bible torn, his response to that was perfectly fitted to the crime. Adults mostly learn not to retaliate on impulse, a lesson only the years can teach.

I found this beautifully and thoughtfully written, I could smell the beeswax of the pews. I shall come again.

Dave King said...

The Cardinal, Lord, Archbishop of Rheims was in Holy anger and pious grief when the little jackdaw hopped off with his ring! I knew the poem very well at that time. I felt I had something in common with the Cardinal, Lord, Archbishop of Rheims !

Lady in Red
Thabks for that - I think!

Very wise to avoid the religious angle. I don't believe what I believed then - and the poem was all about the latter.

Much thanks for generous comments.

Yes, I found those views interesting. Worth a bit of thought, maybe. I haven't come across quite that outlook before.

Welcome to the blog, and thanks for a thoughtful response.

Unknown said...

You had me ducking and diving in response to your words but settled into a puddle of relief at the end.
Loved it.

Sarah Laurence said...

Interesting poem and thoughts on belief. You tell a satisfying story in verse - well done.

Tom Atkins said...

Oh my. My first time here, but I can tell I am going to love this site, and your mix of verse and images.

I'll be back (said in a bad imitation of the movie line.)


Mary Ellen said...

Beautifully told. It's interesting what events spur us toward the seeking of truth or faith, or the discarding of both. I especially loved the visions of Jesus stamps - I have similar memories of my childhood religious upbringing, although I began my real journey so much later.

Bagman and Butler said...

Wow...a great poem. I like the way you told it. The meat of it really sizzling between the lines.

Linda Sue said...

This is great! I loved this (as usual, you can do no wrong in my world). I was such a pip in church- I "tested" the faithful...if I had had a little wooden pistol my church going years would have been even better! Once i even shouted "God Damn" from the back bench at the entrance, just to see if the church would collapse, I could make a quick get away...all I got was scorn, the church remained secure on it's foundation, I was sent home.

Self-Proclaimed Mistress of Nothing said...

You have a lovely blog... and this poem made me smile. :-)

findingmywingsinlife said...

A very good post indeed...
gives you things to ponder on and it seems your blogger friends have also found it intriguing..

Hilary said...

Beautifully done and thanks for your visit to my blog.

Dave King said...

Welcome to the blog and thanks for commenting. Glad you found eventual relief!

Thanks for the feedback

Welcome and much appreciation for those kind words.

That echoes my own experience. I was too young at the time for it to be agenuine seeking, but my adult life has followed a similar course.

Ah, a soul after my own heart (so to speak!) - but one with more courage than I. I think we would have got along famously. Thanks for your kind words and welcome!

Butler and Bagman
That's really good of you to say so. Thanks.

Self-Proclaimed Mistress of Nothing
Welcome and many thanks.

Much thanks for the visit and for finding time to comment.

Enjoyed my visit, thanks for yours and for the comment.


I love this... Thank you!

Dave King said...

Black and White
And thank you for commenting.

kenflett said...

guts... that is what l thought of after reading your wonderful and beautiful story. the briar and the rose.

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