Monday, December 1, 2008

He Left Us Hanging

I know full well that I'm treading on thin ice and sensitive ground for some folks with this subject, so first let me say, my intention is not to offend anyone, wherever their beliefs or value system lies. One of the recurring themes in my art (?) or work, whatever, is short term (and longer term) evolution, as evidenced in the way things decay, become dilapidated, disintegrate into dust, to be re-born again. This is a totally natural cycle that no religion has a monopoly on. And even religious symbols are not immune to the process. Religions themselves are not immune. And I am all for evolution. Evolution is life. Stasis is death.
Having travelled fairly extensively in France which remains today a predominantly Catholic country, it never ceases to amaze me how prolific the industry of churning out sculptures representing the man known as Jesus Christ was and is. If those factories had hung out signs like McDonalds did (One Billion Burgers Served), they might have said something like : One Billion Christs Constructed. This is surely one of the top ten symbols in sheer quantity of all time. Churchyards and graveyards are full of them, along the roadside, in museums, around people's necks on a chain; it would be difficult to pass a day travelling in France without coming across a multitude of this symbol. A symbol which as I said, is not immune to natural decay and entropy. This one, photographed in 1991 in eastern France, no longer had arms to hang by, so it had been leaned against a cemetery wall, forlorn, forsook, left to return to dust.
It has been a while since I posted a poem, I don't mean to be gloomy, but sometimes poetry is a form of catharsis... I will let you decide whether these two stories have anything in common...
............He Left Us Hanging
Every time I drive by the neighbor’s house
Even now, nearly two years later
I see his little gray car
In the driveway on the side
That goes to the back yard
And I wonder why his widow doesn’t sell it
He won’t be needing it anymore
I go by there at least five times a week
On my way to work
And every time I play the same film
Think the same thoughts
And then forget about it all
Before I get to the corner
As the imperatives of driving a car
Avoiding other fixed and moving objects
Drive it all out of my mind
Until the next time I go by there
And play the same film again, and again
Him hanging there on the swingset
I wonder what he looked like
When his wife found him
Did she gasp or whimper or scream
When they cut him down
Was his tongue protruding
Black and swollen
Was his face a livid purple
His hands where were his hands?
Did his hands clutch and claw at the rope?
I never met him
We had only just moved here
Not so long before
His daughter had some hamsters
At thirteen she was well on her way
To a troubled, haunted life
Lit by the light of her father’s suicide
Did her mother shield her from the sight
Of her father swaying in the cold dawn
What made him do it I wonder
Every time I drive by the neighbor’s house
Was it drugs or women or liquor
Was she cheating on him
Had he blown the meager family savings
On late night poker with his pals at the bar
Or was he just another man trapped
By the fact that he wasn’t going anywhere?
He didn’t tell us before he left
Before he left us hanging

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