Monday, September 13, 2010

Monday's Poetry: "Manufactured Gods" and "Book Burning"

by Pa Rock
Poetry Appreciator

Last week there was a lot of focus in the press on religion and the anger that it can inspire.  Today's first poem, Manufactured Gods by Carl Sandburg, examines religious icons and their ability to gather powers that never were. The second, Book Burning by Jay Rogoff, is self-explanatory and disturbing.  Both are hereby dedicated to a pair of religious bigots, Terry Jones and Shirley Phelps Roper.  There is much to fear when religion has an evil heart.

Manufactured Gods
by Carl Sandburg

THEY put up big wooden gods.
Then they burned the big wooden gods
And put up brass gods and
Changing their minds suddenly
Knocked down the brass gods and put up
A doughface god with gold earrings.
The poor mutts, the pathetic slant heads,
They didn’t know a little tin god
Is as good as anything in the line of gods
Nor how a little tin god answers prayer
And makes rain and brings luck
The same as a big wooden god or a brass
God or a doughface god with golden

Book Burning
by Jay Rogoff

Fire loves paper

but adores people.
Fire eats our words,
hurling them off
like flaming birds
on bright black wings.
Smoke must cough
but fire sings,
breathing deeper,
sucking down
our oxygen.
Fire is not
our brother's keeper.
It isn't a question
of good and evil;
it guzzles the broth,
consumes the table.
Heine guessed
a modern truth:
they burn books first.

The night of the fire
on Unter den Linden
what rang up the curtain
next door at the Staatsoper?
Die Zauberflote,
its gorgeous noise
lit with love,
a book of seduction,
light, and learning.
We walk through flame,
daring hell and high water,
dancing and burning,
our fancy fired up
till real tears drop;
or Tristan and Isolde,
romantic hell
on a Celtic ship,
love mating death
till both look the same.
Fire crests the wave
of the blood-dark ocean,
extinguished breath
blood-wet with kisses:
lovers, poison,
and none left to blame.

On the Opernplatz
the students wave
a sea of dark arms
engaged by armbands
and oozing the spume
of cream-pale hands
awash in the air.
Goebbels commends
their courage to break
the intellectual
reich of the Jew
and homosexual;
and face the blaze,
courage to erect
in this vast empty platz,
banal and funereal,
a tower of books
and feed them to fire
like so many faggots.
The boys pledge death
divinest respect
with courage to burn,
courage to burn
Freud and all joy,
such men as Mann,
heretic Einstein,
and Heine the Jew.

The opera disgorges
its lovers, their eyes
still moist, songs still
in their teeth. They view
the night turned day,
the spring turned hell
this early May night.
The spines crack.
The burning covers
issue a smell
like living leather,
rank with authors.
Kerchiefs mask noses
and hands shield eyes
raised to the skies.

Another decade
and they'll take burning
to the very Beginning,
the primal Word,
spinning the world
back down the commode,
back into its Chaos
of mud and scheiss.
For now, bringing brightness,
words of all people
soar in a tower,
the babble of languages
melting together,
the fire-breathing steeple
drunk on air
and publishing ash,
singing like mad
a single song
in a single tongue.

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