I know you’re a priest, but I’m not going to be a priest

Every step
is a protopian trek
through a jungle overgrown
with thick roots and poison leaves.

Yes, even the poisonous
cannot contain their self-interest.
Even the revolution
must surely bring oppression.

My advice to people
who are considering
becoming priests:
Be sure to wear clean underwear.
Be aware that not every priest is like you.
Don’t get into fights with other priests unless they deserve it.
Never be ashamed.
Only apologize to children.

I’m not some crazy
priest-hoarding freak
who is going out of his mind
with plans to destroy this world on a whim.

However, if that turns out to be the case, then I’m sorry, I was only kidding. I’m just kidding. Just kidding.

Here is a joke
I wrote in seminary,
by far my favorite joke,
the one that I always come back to:

“How do you think Jesus died?

Do you think he was hit in the head with a rock?

Do you think he was hit by a bus?

Do you think he was hit by lightning?

Do you think he was hit by a car?

Do you think he was hit by a train?

Do you think he was hit by lightning?

Do you think he was hit by a train?

Do you think he was hit by a train?
Do you think he was hit by a train?

Do you think he was hit by a train?
Do you think he was hit by a train? Do you think he was hit by a train? Do you think he was hit by a train? Do you think he was hit by a train? Do you think he was hit by a train? Do you think he was hit by a train? Do you think he was hit by a train? Do you think he was hit by a train? Do you think he was hit by a train? Do you think he was hit by a train? Do you think he was hit by a train? Do you think he was hit by a train? Do you think he was hit by a train? Do you think he was hit by a train? Do you think he was? Do you? Do you?”

Get it?

I know you’re a priest, but I’m not going to be a priest

Then One Foggy Christmas Eve

We were singing
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
at church
instead of
Amazing Grace
and something
didn’t seem
quite right;
like
there was no verve,
no gumption,
no gratification
for caroling
to the heavens.
It didn’t seem
like the right
little ritual
for the time.

And this was,
at bottom,
the very reason
I wanted
to sing
my memoirs
at a Christmas Eve
extravaganza.

I needed
to sing
these truths:
that we must love each other,
that happiness isn’t constant,
that the brain needs melody,
and that life is like a gingerbread house:
quite messy
and prone to collapse
just when you think
you’ve got it all
put together nicely
(but pretty sweet
from start to finish).

The people
in my memoir song
sound different
than they do
in real life.

When my mother sings,
“Would you like
to be
a little elf?”
she sounds like Emmy Lou Harris
and I recall my mother,
wide-eyed and wrinkle-free,
with hair halfway down her back;
when her voice drifts down
to sing,
“Or would you like
to be
buried under snow?”
you must recall
that’s how
I’ve written
her parts
of the song.

When my family comes
to my song’s premiere
no one asks
what the song is for.
They only ask
why they all
sound different
from how they sound
in real life.

After the premiere,
we all go out
to eat fried rice
and steamed veggies.

We wait hours
for supper
to arrive.
We don’t talk
about much,
but we do hum
along to some
jolly Christmas tunes
saturating
the air
around us.

Then One Foggy Christmas Eve

Things We Hold Dear

It only took two minutes to break the world, split it open, let the gooey center leak out into the cold black of space and watch the solid core shiver in its raw, iron nakedness.

Then, the entire thing was still.

“This was the world and all it contained,” read the memorial.

You reached into the stillness and pulled the world to you as though it were something important you’d forgotten. It was as though the old life itself was within you, and you felt the weight of all the old life beating in your own heart and pumping through your own veins.

You reached for the world again and again and again.

“The world and all that it contained, yes?” they asked in a sibilant whisper, smile wide as Orion’s belt.

You pulled the world closer.

“The world is a thing that shouldn’t have broke.”

Their eyes widened and they looked at you with terror, wondering what you would manage to sacrilege next. But you had been here before.

You felt that dusty sense of eternality. You knew they had loved the world in the time before its death, despite their present tone. They had been here, waiting for you, for this. They’d been here before, too, while you were holding the cold world close to your chest in mourning. You felt then, as now, the warmth of their celestial body wrapped over and through your own. And yet you had forgotten how suffocating that warmth could grow.

Their thousand hands touched your skin and you shivered.

“I know you do not like the world to be cold and lifeless,” they said softly through a million mouths in a million tongues. “But I’ve told you these same things many times before and do so again now.”

A billion hands closed tightly around yours, “You have always taken up within in me and then kept this constant vigil, watching over the world. And the more I watch you watch the world, the more I fail to understand love.”

You shook your head and tried to escape their constraints. They closed a trillion eyes then spoke, “No one can keep you from watching. All these years from now, when we’re here again – no one will ever keep you from watching.”

You put your hand inside one of their open mouths and said, “The world is our love, my love, and that’s all we will ever care about. The world will continue no matter what, I promise you yet again.”

And then you climb inside, taking the world with you, keeping it safe and close, like you would a helpless child.

Things We Hold Dear

Struggling Against One Kind or Another

We forgot what our god is for.
But I can tell you who remembers because I remember.
This is a most important lesson I’m about to teach you:

THE LESSON

When life happens to you. What happens to you and how you handle it. When you fail. When things fail that you don’t want. There’s a whole world of things. And I mean you. And you don’t want. That’s not a pleasant. And I don’t think anybody has been doing it right. When you’re too quick to jump to words and to give up on what god had planned before the words, when there was a lot more to your problems than words.

We’re talking about our biggest, darkest demons here. Our fears. Our fears and their fears are so big right now yet they’re not at all. Our worst fears and their fears are the things that…look, we’re afraid of our. We’re afraid to take in. We’re afraid to put a face to the fear and to admit that there is fear lurking underneath the blankets. We’re afraid to let it out. And when we don’t. When we’re afraid to do. When we don’t face our heart. When we’re afraid to say. When we’re afraid of what. When we’re afraid to truth. When we don’t at all.

And everything has been caught. Fallen into it.

So I’ve been fighting. Fighting for you, for future, for faith. You’ve had your challenges from, right? It’s been there. You’ve had your demons and dark things inside. And I’ve had my own demons and dark things inside. And you’re hearing how to keep that inside as much as you’re hearing how not to do it.

We could be living in the kingdom of the gods, if we all prayed together forever. But we don’t. We can’t. In fact, we’re so scared of the wrong things and we’re in the kingdom of the demons. The demons have got us by the throat and they’ve got you by the throat. They’ve got you right. We’re in a kingdom. We’re in a kingdom of dark, dark joy.

Struggling Against One Kind or Another

The Emptiness of Space

She is the storyteller
And she is the truth
She is the heart
And she is the backbone
She is the web’s shadow
And the grass-hymn wind

She is the truth
And she is the grass
She is the webbed tree

When I think
of how I am feeling right now,
I’m filled with sadness and fear

Now, don’t listen to my woes
if you believe in God,

Don’t believe in your sins
if you believe in God,

Don’t believe in anything
if you believe in a Lord

There’s something to be said
for a little Godliness
in all things that people do,
and that they do not do
by their own choice

Where I come from
we have lots of enemies

Where I come from,
there’s only one God

She is the truth
And she is the grass
And she is the web
And she is the shadow
And she is the story

The Emptiness of Space

Our Firearms

Our Firearms, Who send many to heaven,
Hallowed be Thy Names;
Our hands be wrung,
The N.R.A.’s will be done
in America as it is in Congress.
Give us this day our daily dead,
and send thoughts and prayers,
as we fill with holes those who trespass against us,
and lead us not into solutions,
but deliver us from stray bullets.
Amen.

See also:
https://jasonpreu.com/2018/02/24/thirteen-ways-of-looking-at-our-problem-after-wallace-stevens/

https://jasonpreu.com/2018/02/16/thoughts-prayers/

Our Firearms