That’s That and Not That


I’m on my way to hell
claiming I heard conversations
between Allah and Yahweh.
They spoke mixed Arabic and Hebrew,
international underground English:
“Human beings look more like me than you.
They praise me more often, I’m praised 5 times a day,
you just morning and night, and on the Sabbath.
You’ve got prayers for the dead,
the new moon, every damn thing.”
I heard Yahweh answer,
“Wind and spirit in Hebrew are the same word.”

That’s that and not that.
I am the Groucho Marx Professor of Theology
at the College of Hard Knocks,
I give a Red Sea plus to a liar’s thesis
“The God’s Honest Truth.”
My lecture: Yahweh speaks Snow, Rain,
Sunset, Drought, Flood, Bird Call, and Whippoorwill.
Yahweh clears His throat with Lightning.
Lightning strikes this old intruder—there’s a pause,
I thunder words:
“After death, life’s not silent.”

*   *   *

I became a man,
I memorized misbegotten conversations.
Still I’m ignorant as I was inside my mother’s womb,
where I kicked, laughed, but never wept—
till I was born, given light.
I have faith in Silence.
I find it a discomfort to be vague,
the text of a great Arabic poet reveals,
“Life by its nature is absent.
Time, in all its rotten presence,
is no more than a joke.”
Vegetarian, Abu Al-Maʿarri
never made a “pagan journey.”

Boys and girls,
I believe in mysteries,
what the Greeks called music.
I offer an olive on a toothpick.
My friend said, “A violin is a replica of the soul.”
I vow, nosey, I heard Yahweh and Allah
speaking alone, each to Himself,
praying as Jesus did in John 17.
Is Paradise a theater, never dark? I want,
I want to hear Allah and Yahweh sing—
they must be full throated
bass, baritone, mezzosoprano, coloratura.
Allah and Yahweh do not sing to me.
They speak to the seen and unseen
because nothing is speechless,
they have laughing conversations with pebbles,
darkness, every ant hill, the Himalayas.
By the way, my Stone is better than my French,
I speak a little Waterfall with a New York drawl.


Lord help me
if there’s aftermath, religious wars after death,
dead souls against dead souls.
Kindness without flesh bleeds to death,
because, because… no matter.
I named my motorboat Because.
Some like to play football, tennis, chess,
I like to play this. I hear sacred music,
a lone flute challenging a cradle cithara.
No matter, “The only question is the existence
or non-existence of God” Dostoyevsky wrote.
I see from a mountaintop two naked witches
flying on a broomstick across a valley,
my pretty teachers—
above them a horned owl with stretched out wings.
Far below are people the size of ants.
I must brush up on my Sumerian.


From the balcony of a three-star hotel in Eilat,
I hold my head still, moving only my eyes.
Straight ahead I see across the waters Arabia,
eyes left Jordan— eyes right Egypt,
Saint Catherine’s Monastery.
I hear noise for the Lord:
an Arab says Jerusalem is a Moslem city,
then he says Fuck off in Hebrew, that has no such word.
A Jew says Fuck off in Arabic, that has no such word.
Peace is taxi drivers arguing in the street.
Forgiveness began when Joseph forgave his brothers.

I hand you this slice of lemon pie on a paper plate,
my pathetic argument for peace in the Middle East.
In Vietnam, my friend Frances
saw war through the window of a clinic
a dog running with a human baby leg in its mouth.
My front door is always open for God
to come to supper.


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