Doing a double take on Jesus
The great thing about poetry, maybe a defining thing, is how it can make you do a double take. The Jesus we meet in the first thirteen poems of this pamphlet is nothing like the Catechism Jesus of my Catholic childhood. But then again, I’m not so sure…
This Jesus is a weed-smoking loser and a sage with miraculous powers; he’s a flounderer who leaps up when you’re quite sure he’s drowning and suddenly walks on the water.
This Jesus wears his divinity lightly, and with humour. He doesn’t do bullshit. Some of the poem titles, which all read like shock headlines (and are given in capitals in the pamphlet), might give you a sense of what’s going on: ‘A Bunch of Hippies, Jesus Included, Burn their Draft Cards in Central Park’; ‘Jesus Gives Man City the Lead after Three Minutes’; ‘Jesus Gets In On the Relic Trade in 15th Century Constantinople’.
He gets about a bit. If you’re the son of God, I guess you can do that.
I really got to love this Jesus. In the poem ‘Penn and Teller Try to Teach Jesus Stage Magic’, Penn tells Jesus, ‘Christ, you’re terrible’, as Jesus fumbles hopelessly through the tricks they’re trying to teach him. The famous illusionists eventually lose patience:
After another hour, they call
it quits. Jesus reaches into Teller’s
coat pocket and pulls out a dove,
sets it free. I’m sorry,
he says, offering
its olive branch.
He’s full of compassion but doesn’t make a big deal of it. In ‘Jesus Pulls Pints down the Local during the Miners’ Strike’:
He recognises these men.
They, too, are always bleeding.
He pulls pint after pint,
saying over and over, Don’t worry,
I missed your birthday,
I’ll cover it.
This Jesus doesn’t talk much about dying, but he thinks about it. He knows what’s coming. A Christmas tree, propped up in a window to die, makes him whimper.
This funny and profound pamphlet may be the 2020 answer to the perennial question, ‘What would Jesus do?’