A PATCH OF LAND TO HOUSE SIX MILLION GHOSTS:
‘Blesséd be the Lord our Benefactor
who hath given the nations coal and iron.’
OVERTURE – THE PANORAMIC VIEW
This battered world’s more battered day by day,
Bedevilled by human minds that think astray.
God gave us Prophets, Marconi gave the Air,
Between them they give us a hundred ways to pray.
You, Daily Prophets, we call on to endorse
One sunlit, well signposted Heaven-way course
In sermons delivered mornings with the milk –
From Cape Canaveral, New York or on a Horse.
The road maps that our Fathers’ Fathers drew
For Destination Heaven are no longer true.
The Pearly Gates are moved to meet the Age,
As Earth rolls timely round so Heaven does too –
But not in lands where Persians rule with Medes1,
Where Time and Thought are chained unchanged
And deeds of lawlessness are judged in Lions’ dens2.
(Where Hate grows jungle high there find its seeds).
Reported1: Fourteen sinners met to pray,
The lions roared too low, too far away.
The sinners’ words were Satan’s – guns came out.
Those Fourteen fools have gone their eternal way.
Aye, Salman Rushdie3! Persia’s judgement’s right –
A Believer shall obliterate you at sight,
That Faithful one’s reward fine seat in Heaven,
Three million dollars and All-High’s delight.
Charred leaves of Satan’s verses ‘neath a bough,
A shattered flask, a crumbled crust and thou
Beside them dangling downwards from the tree,
A Faithless Fool has quit the Here and Now.
Adultery is reproved in North Nigeria4
In sterner ways than ours but much superior,
Stoning’s discomfort lasts a mere ten minutes –
It’s kinder than a lifetime in Siberia.
Respect those executioners steeped in piety
And greet them with Political Propriety.
They don’t need our soft morals, we need their oil,
The lifeline of our degenerate society.
1 ‘The laws of the Medes and the Persians are forever.’ Old Testament Book of Daniel, Chapter 6 2 A BBC Report from North Pakistan 3 Salman Rushdie is an eminent Muslim writer of a book criticising the Koran, resident in Britain. In 1988-89 he was condemned to death by Fatwah (decree) by the Iranian clergy by any Believer having the opportunity to carry out the act wherever it might be. 4 Reported in a BBC news bulletin
Foreseeing sin in ancient lands with Zion,
Sadly All-High denied them coal and iron –
The land once-honeyed fated to become
Treeless and parched for half the world to cry on.
In centuries the Zion-born would seek
Havens of peace in distant lands less bleak,
Free from the trampling feet of covetous hordes
Of Ancient Roman, Persian, Ottoman, Greek –
Where petty griefs were never wept upon
Nor by Blue Danube sanctified in song.
For tears are wasted when they fall on fire
And Auschwitz was far away from Babylon1.
Within those ancient lands with kin and kith
Men wove great magic carpets spun of myth.
Aladdin’s rubbing lamps with genial oil
Bred many an Adam but never an Adam Smith2.
And godly men at every evening’s drowsing
Gave thanks to gods for energetic spousing
And lesser blessings thoughtfully provided –
Goat skins and dried camel dung for housing.
Their faith was strong – they clung to it like leeches.
They fought for it, on mountain tops and beaches.
The still small voice of Darwin never rose
Above the screeching of Original Species.
In time they too dispersed – one’s in my street,
A decent, friendly chap, we chat and greet;
His packaged soul skulks in a far off cave –
So tell me, Prophets, in which house can we meet?
1 Psalm 137, Verse 1: ‘By the Rivers of Babylon we sat down and wept’.
2 Adam Smith -18th century Scottish economist who wrote the pioneering work ‘The Wealth of Nations’. Such a work could not have been written in a primitive, pastoral economy.
CRIME AND PUNISHMENT
It came to pass that green-eyed Uncle Sam,
Sly-partnered by the Sons of Abraham,
Lobbied the Lord, “Give us your coal and iron,
We have but crusts, we also need the jam.”
And so All-High, confused in his goodwill
And noting that the Yanks would foot the bill,
Transferred his major assets to the West
And Moses flew to Heaven from Stamford Hill1.
Those blessed with All-High’s coal were quick to find
They could reshape the world as they designed,
Enacting miracles without All-High
While the Uncoaled watched dreamily behind.
And, dreaming, never saw in their confusion
And fervent prayers for Virginal Profusion
That wizardry with All-High’s coal and iron
Was the birth-seed of the Industrial Revolution –
That split their world, the one now powered by steam,
That scolding force now seen as Nature’s scheme
For human progress, left the Uncoaled in peace
With camel and blissful harem still supreme.
Deep in the West, far from the Watchful Eye,
Stephenson2 summoned sorcerers from the sky.
With coal and iron they fashioned trains on wheels
While Franklin3 made electric sparks to fly.
So magic carpets soon were out of date
And, be it noted, never carried freight.
No magic pen inscribed the stations’ names
Or timesheets showing carpets flying late.
Now great in anger All-High saw that Satan
With Sam and Abe had tricked him, vowed he’d flatten
The Golden Towers they built from coal and iron.
With plane and Holy Book He trashed Manhatten4.
The distant sound of turmoil drawing nigh
Rocked the great towers in the New York sky
And bodies showered in torrents to the ground,
While a just God watched grimly from nearby.
The awesome message ran from pole to pole
Whoso misuses All-High’s gift of coal
Unmindful of the wishes of All-High
Shall perish for the insolence of his soul.
All-High had dealt His cards in all His places
Fairly to all His shapes and hues of faces.
Each had their tricks according to their needs
To those who had the coal fell all the Aces.
But one had Trumps by All-High’s grant of wits,
Aladdin sold on his oil to Yanks and Brits
To power the wingéd engines blessed by Satan
And tethered his camels in Green Park by the Ritz5.
1 Stamford Hill: London district with a large Jewish Orthodox community.
2 Stephenson: a Northern engineer who produced the first rail locomotive.
3 Benjamin Franklin: American politician and scholar (1706-1790), who demonstrated the electrical qualities of lightning.
4 Attack on New York 11th September 2001. Almost 3,000 people were killed.
5 Said to be the classiest hotel in London.
A PATCH OF LAND TO HOUSE
SIX MILLION GHOSTS
In history’s time, as urgent hands contrived,
The honeyed land regained its heart, revived,
A shaft of light shone through a door ajar
Ex-pats returned – well, those who had survived!
They came from distant and from nearby coasts,
Praying with stifled sobs “Lord God of Hosts,
O Lord be with us yet, lest we forget
A patch of land to house six million ghosts.”
They prayed relief from anguish of pogrom.
They prayed release from lasting martyrdom.
They came renewed with hope, saw with dismay
That those who lost the coal had found the bomb.
Challenged for right of entry at the door,
For document without a legal flaw,
“Documents” they said, “Of course the Book –
The one that’s sworn on in the Courts of Law.
The answer was “As Book, it’s not denied,
As evidence, its time has long since died.
As you read Holy Writ our bombs read law
And what is Legal Writ our bombs decide.”
Our human rights must zealously be guarded,
They said, in passing, to those they had bombarded.
The bombs are used to emphasise the point,
And lives of kids in queues are disregarded.
As in the ancient Book, the language ran,
The people increased as man begat each man.
The modern instance isn’t quite the same,
Bombs begat bombs, the slaughter then began.
The Daily Scribe urged victims “Do not fret,
Bombs by equivalence should not be met.
With time and patience tempers will abate,
‘Tis true as rain in Manchester is wet.”
As wifely love outwits the saucy wench
And arms outstretched cry Peace to fists that clench,
So Great-of-Heart appease the angered foe.
In 1812 Tchaikovsky1 stopped the French.
“We too” it said “deplore such bloody deed,
But our opinion is your foe won’t heed
Such strong reciprocation – be assured
Our conscience pricks though it’s not we who bleed.”
The bombed saw sense, made dignified reply,
Gladly with peaceful pledges we’ll comply
To equal pledges from the other side
Like half the pubs in Manchester go dry.
But then the human bomb, and what came after?
Grim comedy, but hardly cause for laughter.
A loving God made promise He’d ensure
A loving welcome to each fragmented martyr.
The tale’s well known, there’s small need to re-tell,
Except in telling to remark as well
That they who strain by slaughter to reach Heaven
Have been conceived dishonourably in Hell.
1 Tchaikovsky (1840-1893), in his 1812 Overture to commemorate Napoleon’s disastrous invasion of Russia, introduced the melody of the Marseillaise then stopped it abruptly with a theme of his own.
The Uplift words by Prophets daily spoken
Over the air no animus betoken.
Old Nick’s addressed as “Ah, my dear good Sir”,
Thus affably, no friendly handshake’s broken.
‘Thou shalt not kill’? But God does not reject
The faithful suicide bombers who select
A queue of kids as escort into Heaven,
In this case, God’s Politically Correct.
And ‘Thou shalt not’ was clearly written in haste.
God has apologised for His lapse from taste.
If faith requires you to kill, just mention His name,
In Heaven you’ll still be honourably placed.
The various gods in Heaven, each has his quill,
Each writes his Word according to his skill.
The deserts God half trapped in the womb of Time
Can splutter just one word and that is Kill.
The deserts scattered oases ever grew,
But meagre trees to feed the passing few.
Whatever roams the Arid seeks for food.
If you do not kill it, it must kill you.
Who’s born by desert sands holds one belief,
The Desert God’s the God of God, the Chief!
His is the final word – when he says kill
The Infidel shall perish without grief.
Political correctness for the masses,
A late discovery by the chattering classes,
(Forgive me, Marx, for waltzing round your grave)
Is the opium of intellectual asses.
Don’t look for gold in fortune-teller’s booth,
Not all is coarse that’s mouthed by the uncouth.
Let no one kid us, practising PC
Was ever more than a seventh veil for truth.
A torturing thought – what faith is it that drives
A human to pay with other human lives,
To buy his own distinguished place in Heaven –
A faith where only Eden’s serpent thrives?
This discourse ends, you need no longer heed us.
We’ve shown you round, we make no claim as leaders.
More things in Heaven and Earth than you had dreamt of?
Words are for writers, the meanings are for readers.
This poem has taken a long time to finalise. My thanks are
due to Sandra Barnet for her patient help during its major
stages, and to Diana Choulman for its sensitive
presentation in print.