Thursday, October 1, 2015

A Psalm for the Paining

“You do realize the trouble you’re in, don’t you,” said Lady. “If this is to be anything like the Bible, you’ll have to have at least four gospels, all giving mostly similar accounts of the life of Johann Sebastian Bach, but with just enough jarring details to provide scholars for the next millennia to do exegesis.”

Damn, what’s exegesis? It’s one of those words I always look up, understand vaguely, and then forget. Sort of like “semiotics,” except that I never even understand that one…

“You know, scholarly interpretation of the text,” she went on to tell me. “Then you’ll have to have all the other books, and the Apocrypha. Oh, and guess what? You’re gonna have to produce a couple hundred psalms, unless, of course, you want to emulate King David, who according to one Dead Sea Scroll, wrote 3600 of them. So that’s one a day for almost ten years. Get going, buster!”

“I absolutely refuse to write psalms,” I told her. “And speaking of which, did you know they’re crapping up all the good ones? I can tell you because I listened to this absolutely great cantata the other day—BWV 131—and it’s based on Psalm 130. You know the one that starts, ‘Out of the depths have I cried unto thee.’ Well it’s a lovely old thing, but it has a little ticker in it, namely about fearing God. So I looked the new version, and it’s been scrubbed up, leaving it substantially dirtier. Now, instead of fearing God, it’s “so that we may serve you reverently. Is that nuts or what?”

“Well, I don’t fear God,” said Lady.

“Are you crazy? I’m utterly terrified of God, and I don’t even believe in Him. Imagine if I did? I couldn’t get out of bed in the morning!”

“Stop saying you don’t believe in God,” said Lady, “since you perfectly well do.”

“How do you know?”

“Because you couldn’t be the kind of person you are if you didn’t.”

Well, every discussion with Lady has many corners, most of which I back myself into.

“Look, you’re the poet, not I. Why don’t you write the damn psalms?”

“You gonna paint houses?”

“I could certainly paint houses!”

“Yes, but would anybody buy them?”

“Well, you didn’t ask me that….”

“Get down to work,” she told me, “and remember, you have to use the word ‘Selah,’ every once in a while.”

So I do:

Psalm 1
Unto the hills I sought you,
Treading on paths foreseen by ancients
Smelling the green of spring pounced
From the gray of winter. Selah.
On the banks of the rivers I searched for you,
As fish swam your glory and wind whistled your adoration.
I drank and was made more thirsty; my tongue
Clew to the roof of my mouth, and yet I praised you.
Athirst, I sought you in the deserts, and flung myself
To cool in the ardent sun,
Which shaded every live thing, but not I.

Not I, who seek you more each day,
As you elude me, leaving only a laugh in the air,
And a smirk on the path.
Yes, you dance with whores and drink with thieves,
But I, dear Lord? I, who stand before the table you just left,
Staring at the crumbs
You have forbidden me to eat?  

My God, and I have ten years of this stuff?