Psalm

I am not done with this one book, and you want me to try a second? The writing is backwards, and corresponds to nothing I know.
Between one page and the next, they launch the fall line of suicide vests with retarded children as models.
Between one verse and the next, they send a satellite to snap pictures of lakes on a moon of Jupiter.
The words fall softly, like the tolling of bells without clappers. The golden frogs vanish from the green mountain.
The type font bulges at the bottom: tears tattooed on a gang member’s face in remembrance of each his victims.
The letter kills, the Word makes whole, and the whole makes a mishmash of identities.
The Amish bishop says of the communion wine: If one berry remains whole, it has no share in the whole.
Oh War, my War, save us from this quagmire of holiness.

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Dave Bonta (bio) crowd-sources his problems by following his gut, which he shares with 100 trillion of his closest microbial friends — a close-knit, symbiotic community comprising several thousand species of bacteria, fungi, and protozoa. In a similarly collaborative fashion, all of Dave's writing is available for reuse and creative remix under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License. For attribution in printed material, his name (Dave Bonta) will suffice, but for web use, please link back to the original. Contact him for permission to waive the "share alike" provision (e.g. for use in a conventionally copyrighted work).

12 Comments


  1. This is powerful, Dave, but I’m going to be the pc pain in the butt and say I hate the word retarded (sorry).

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  2. What would you put in its place? “Mentally handicapped” is a mouthful.

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  3. I love the last line. Where I live I see many people with teardrop tatoos. Does not always mean a victim. Sometimes it is for a friend that was killed.

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  4. Oh yeah? Well, I got that from Richard Shelton’s new memoir about teaching poetry in prison, Crossing the Yard, where he mentions the teardrops as an Aryan Brotherhood thing.

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  5. Oh, yikes! I’m telling myself I know nothing about you than that I’ve surfed in to your page. There isn’t anything wrong with the term “retarded” other than too many have used it as unkindly as they use the new PC terms, but there is something RADICALLY wrong with this sentiment:

    The writing is backwards, and corresponds to nothing I know.
    Between one page and the next, they launch the fall line of suicide vests with retarded children as models.

    if you meant it straight up without irony or tongue in cheek.

    Holy Jumping Jiminy, Dave! Don’t you think you owe people whose homes we’ve bombed off the map a little more than that?

    Suicide bombs aren’t between those pages, and they weren’t children, and they weren’t retarded. It was propaganda. Google around.

    We’ve ruined their lives! Thrown everything into chaos and extreme insecurity. Their every day and night is filled with terror and difficulty and intense suffering. You might resort to a suicide vest if a bunch of fat and unfeeling strangers came and visited evil upon your home without let-up for six years. Aaaaaaaaagh!

    I’m just going to tell myself you were being ironic and go fan myself now.

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  6. Hi, 99 – Thanks for the feedback, and I’m sorry this upset you. Yes, some irony was intended. (Not only am I literature guy, but I also used to listen to a lot of thrash and death metal, if that helps you understand where I’m coming from.) In this piece I’m riffing on holy scriptures in general, though I don’t know how successfully that comes across. I’m actually a big fan of the Tanakh, the Gospels, and the Quran, but I think that our idolization of those texts has caused us to overlook or ignore other humans and the earth as peripheral, expendable. I do not, however, feel that there is ever any excuse for suicide bombing — or indeed war/terrorism of any kind, so I’m not sure it makes the folks in Al Qaeda in Iraq and similar groups any less monstrous if we agree that this latest claim may have been propaganda, as the Smirking Chimp suggests. They are certainly capable of it, and have been guilty of much worse. The fact that the U.S. government is responsible for the whole fucked up situation there does not mean that those who oppose it, or who use it to advance their own agendas, are any less villainous.

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  7. Well, thank goodness. I’m glad I took a chance coming back here to take my heart out of my throat. Carry on…. :o)

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  8. I don’ really understand the previous comments. I find this poem strong and powerful and true. I like everything about it but the line that is perhaps the most evocative for me is
    “like the tolling of bells without clappers”
    I find the image (and the aural representation) quite awe-inspiring.
    For greater clarity: when my husband was a small child he lived through war and has kept a vivid memory of soundless explosions and of a rose bush bursting into bloom because of the heat wave.
    When you think of “soundless explosions” you think: that’s crazy, the sound must have been shattering.
    What I understand is that it was SO loud as to transcend our usual notion of sound. And that is what your image of the tolling bells with no clappers evokes for me.

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  9. Lees’ River – That’s a very interesting reaction – thanks. A good example of how a poetic image arrived at by instinct can have connotations far beyond what the author understands by it.

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  10. That Amish bishop’s theology is pretty intense, eh? (I read the source.) Good poem, Dave.

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  11. Tricky, that one, I don’t know what I would use in its place, maybe disabled…….I agree re the suicide bombing, absolutely, always wrong, the ultimate brainwashing.

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  12. beth – Yes, I am much too prideful to be Amish. But I do enjoy seeing how the Amish we know still manage to find outlets for their creative urges.

    Jo – “Mentally disabled” might work. I keep thinking “handicapped,” but I think that term has fallen somewhat into disuse, hasn’t it?

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