Whose Flesh? Whose Word?


rembrandt feast
Belshazzar’s Feast (Rembrandt)


Begin with the Word

Word became flesh

… Became flesh, became Word.

Once above us

Whose Flesh?

Among us.

Chapter and verse across the skin.

 A later addition.

The word made Word made word again –

Look for silence.

Word, in love first spoken.

Now, in anger, comes forth.

Now, in conversation, continues.

Now, in print, lives again.

The Word became Flesh became pulp.

It lines the long corridors and closes wrought iron gates.

It howls like a dirge in an empty coffin,

Drowning out the coarse cries of the veiled.

Word in mind, flesh in the mirror.

Every move marked.

The mind, the mirror,



Every move marked

By the clank of a machine that will change the world.

Each word-

Whose Word?


Word unspoken, Flesh underfoot,

Pages as curtains torn in two.

Word unspoken, Flesh underfoot,

A rough wooden throne above a company of thieves-

Word declared, Flesh sanctified,

Amid Great Darkness shining.

Word and flesh and fire burn,

All mortal scars refining-

Whose Flesh? Whose Word?

What is this darkness growing, growing?

Take this cup away from me

For it is overflowing.




Not one blot!

Not one blot!

Not one thing will pass away-







Begin with the Word-

Whose Word?



I wrote this poem as part of an assignment for my Postcolonial Literature course. I wanted to write about language and authority, and theology seemed like a natural entry point into this discussion (I am, after all, a man of limited interests).  This piece draws on the work of the poets Jean ‘Binta’ Breeze and Mahmoud Dawish, as well as the theology of Jurgen Moltmann. 

Quite unintentionally, one of the stanzas in this piece closely resembles a portion of To Be King.


Bach on Demand

Portrait by Elias Gottlob Haussmann. Desecration by me.
I put Bach on

(The St John Passion)

And I turn the volume up

And I think

about eternity

From my armchair

On the edge

Of the infinite

Herr, unser Herrscher…


I put Bach on

(The St John Passion)

And I keep the volume low

I don’t want to think

About eternity

From my armchair

On the edge

Of the infinite

So close

To the edge

Of the infinite

Herr, unser Herrscher…


My walking sticks

Are the first to fall

Off the edge

Of the infinite

I wobble

Back and forth

And fall

Off the edge

Of the infinite


It’s just like the dream

That I keep having


It’s not scary

It’s strange

I’m falling so slowly

Into eternity

And I look back

At my armchair

On the edge

Of the infinite

Herr, unser Herrscher…


Just think:

For only $9.99 a month

I could fall

And fall

And fall again


My fascination with the two Passions was galvanized by Alex Ross’ piece Bach’s Holy Dread.


From Babel, there came Pentecost.

He Qi (Chinese, 1950–), Holy Spirit Coming, 1998.

From Babel, there came Pentecost

Setting tangled tongues alight

And casting flame upon darkest night:

A beacon, burning, for the lost.

Behind the curtain

(Ripped in twain)

Angels gather once again,

“What love, what love, what love, what cost!”

From Babel, there came Pentecost.

The Kingdom of The Air

In The Kingdom of the Air

An industrial liturgy

Mocks the towers left down here

Bound by land and sea.


Angels, white, with metal wings

Above high mountains flying,

Soar beyond the Earthly things,

Laughing, singing, dying.

Poet, shut up!

You are insane

Your angel is an aeroplane

And it rules the Kingdom of the Air

Look up, look up, look up, despair!

Your angel is an aeroplane:

It splutters, jumps, flys (again)

And conquers the Kingdom of the Air,

Making magic mundane.

To Be King

Sutherland, Graham Vivian, 1903-1980; The Deposition
Sutherland, Graham Vivian; The Deposition; The Fitzwilliam Museum; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/the-deposition-4484

No-one wants to be the king.

The crown cuts deep,

And he is weighed down by a garish robe.


No-one wants to be king.

His subjects brandish green swords.

Some cheer as he arrives, many more applaud his deposition.


No-one wants to be king.

The bread at his table is coarse,

The wine is bitter.


No-one wants to be the king

As he’s hoisted heavenward on a wooden throne

With his court of thieves.


No-one wants to be king,

And the crowd ignore his dirge:

“Eloi Eloi lama sabachthani!”


A dynasty ends,

A palace crumbles

And a temple is built in its place.








Parley, Please.

Gentlemen, sheath your savage knives!

Oh, so young is the day.

Let us, for once,

differences aside, peacefully parley.


There’s no shame in the flag of white!

I mean, that is to say,

We all deserve a brief respite

So please, let us parley.


For once, let tea flow

in place of blood

(or whiskey, if you’d prefer).

Let us our status remember

and to Generals defer.


Yes, I’m like you!

I’m a trench rat too!

Why, why do you ask?

I have so much to offer.

Here, take my silver flask!


Gentlemen, this rope is rather rough

and it cuts into my neck.

I’d rather not dangle at this height

and would sooner remain on deck.


Gentlemen, why do your savage knives

look particularly sharp to-day?

Please! Please! The day’s still young!

Please let us parley!


via Daily Prompt: Parlay

Yes, I’m aware that “parlay” and “parley” have different meanings.