The Agonist Journal

May God rain vengeance down on sin
I haven’t any interest in!
My fists are useless in a brawl,
So I choose not to fight at all,
And these most virtuous bowels of mine
Shudder at any hint of wine.
It drives me mad to think of greed,
With bums on every street in need—
Sometimes I flip a chap a five.
Great God, how sweet to be alive!
I’m honest as the day is long,
Not that I use the night for wrong;
I have a heart, I know that scandal
Can be too much for some to handle,
So when I harm a man’s good name
I keep it secret all the same.
So I am like a serpent, wise,
And cannot be caught out in lies.
I don’t bear tales as others do;
I gossip only when it’s true,
And let the filthy bastards feel
The tickle of my fiery zeal.
So Jesus whipped the money-changers.
Heroes there are who laugh at dangers,
Striding unarmed in open air,
With bullets whizzing past their hair;
But I’m not built like such machines,
So I use subterranean means.
If all were warriors, what would be
The use of strategists like me?
Blood, sinew, nerve, the beating heart—
They in the body bear their part,
And I’m the last who would complain.
Just give me leave to flex my brain.
But I’m a man of fine flesh too,
And do what fleshly others do.
It takes a man of sticks and paste
To find it easy to be chaste,
Therefore I seek the opposite:
The good Lord loathes a hypocrite,
Sweating and straining to be pure.
That’s not what God made sweating for!
And it’s a pretty sight to see
A eunuch preaching purity.
For to establish what an act is
A man must put it into practice,
Feel in his bones the truth of it
With all the force of Holy Writ;
So have I felt a virtuous force
Rise up in me and point my course.
That doesn’t mean I have no scruples.
I rule out triples and quadruples,
Getting the next girl in the sacking
Before I’ve sent the first girl packing.
Some vices we must all disparage.
For sex, I know, is meant for marriage,
Somewhere along a holy highway
That God has straightened to be my way.
He in his providence exempts
The sinner when the tempter tempts
Beyond what frail man can endure.
How blest are then the truly poor
Who lack the strength of resolution!
God lays it to their constitution.
Some sins are bad, but others worse.
My sins are natural, not perverse,
Though never do I call perversion
What is another’s natural version;
Christ warns us not to be unkind.
If they don’t mind, then I won’t mind.
Though I confess I grow hysterical
To hear of crimes among the clerical,
For leading lithe young lads to gaiety
Is licit only for the laity,
For Ginsberg, Gielgud, Maugham, and Milk,
And others of that saintly ilk.
Good Lord, we’re not unsympathetic!
We don’t ask priests to be ascetic,
Taming the flesh with fasts all day—
They sure would show us up that way.
So let’s have no more of this foolery—
Fiddling with some kid’s family joolery.
Vicious it is, utterly vile
To filch such things, when all the while
You dwell in palaces of stone,
And you have jewels of your own.
Still I can’t see the good Lord dooming
Laymen to hell for taste in grooming.
For some are given more, some less.
God sees our little holiness,
How easy it is for us to swerve,
And so He grades us on a curve.
Besides, we know the sin of Sodom
Was not what we were taught, at bottom,
But dreadful, dire, hardly committable,
Murder, or being inhospitable,
Some sin that really crossed the line—
Whatever it was, it isn’t mine.
My sin is—well—a situation,
And never of my own creation.
God knows, if ever I fornicated,
It was how I was situated,
Fitting the time like hand in glove—
What luck have I been guilty of!
Oh, I take out my conscience often.
Put it to good use lest it soften;
Let it grow firm and raise a callus,
And something else that rhymes with “callus.”
Conscience is but a spiritual muscle
When law and longings come to tussle,
So we should keep it supple, limber,
Slipping the law, but tough as timber
To stand up for the goods we long for,
Such as there’s no real right or wrong for.
God has not made me hypocritical,
With reasons fine and Jesuitical,
Straining at fleas and flies of law,
When full grown camels go down raw.
I am not like my faithless friend
Who fears, and trembles to offend,
Who bleeds for Christ who bleeds for us.
I find such blood presumptuous.
Christ bore the full brunt of our sin—
Who am I then to swagger in?
He bore it well, and I won’t grumble.
It’s His command that I be humble,
And if I’m saved, it’s He who gave it,
And if He suffers, He can have it.
Then let the songs at Mass be cheerful!
Sinners don’t like to get an earful
Of how we’re dancing on a thread
Slung out between the quick and dead,
Where any slip may be eternal.
Dante’s Inferno is infernal,
None else, and as for Purgatory,
I’ve heard—it’s certain—it’s a story.
Heaven, of course, I never doubt,
Where souls like mine will lie about,
Hearing the angel trumpets blow,
And baseball on the radio.
But if there’s such a place as Hades
It’s not inhabited by ladies.
I abide by the scriptural dictum:
Woman can only be a victim.
Behold your Adams and your Eves:
Woman’s deceived, and man deceives.
She is too gentle for the sword
But wields the well-delivered word
To parry over-rational dealing,
Or fluster it with Christian feeling,
As we were taught by Christ to do.
It’s somewhere in the gospels too
That if my sins are meek and mild,
My Judge will treat me like a child,
And pat me on my wayward head,
And cart me piggy-back from the dead.
Sulfur and fire are not for us
Who go to Mass and make no fuss,
Who follow where the Spirit leads,
As anyone may tell who reads
National Catholic Reporters,
Whence He receives His marching orders.
So to make matters good and plain,
I’ve said it, and I’ll say again,
May God rain vengeance down on sin
I haven’t any interest in!
The great I AM created me:
Such as I am, so let me be.