Saturday, 17 January 2015


I've just finished drawing up a submissions spreadsheet. I'm determined that this year I am going to Be Serious About This and Actually Submit to Magazines, something at which I'm notoriously bad. This means that there will be fewer poems uploaded to this blog, which means, if I'm to keep it ticking over, that I am going to have to write more non-poetry stuff for it.

For now, however, there is one more poem I want to put on here, because I'm interested in people's thoughts about it. I wrote this last night: I was thinking about the events in France a little over a week ago, and the issue of reacting to religious fundamentalism in general. In particular I was inspired by this very moving blogpost by Sam Ambreen, which set me thinking about my attitude to God. There is something about men shouting about the greatness of God while murdering others which is chilling, whichever God they claim to worship. And of course 'great' does not necessarily mean 'most exceedingly good': it can simply mean big. Containing multitudes.

So I started from that point, and the following poem is what I came up with. I'm posting it here, despite my newly-professed commitment to word-hoarding, because I'm not entirely sure it's finished. What I'm not trying to do in this poem is be another white, Western poet condemning Radical Islam and striking the agreed posture: as anyone who read the entry preceding this one ought to be able to grasp, je ne suis pas Charlie.

I hope this poem reads like what it is - a tentative, throughly-lapsed Catholic attempting to try and understand what drives someone to strap on a kalashnikov and kill people for religious reasons. It isn't meant to be an answer, or a speech. It is meant as a kind of response.

You say your God is Big

You say your God is big, and you’re not lying:
your God’s a God who throws His weight around,
from one side of the planet to the other.
Your God takes heads, sends towers crashing down:

my God – the God they brought me up to worship -  
my God can’t make me ditch the booze for Lent.
I’d like to say my God is almost spent:
but I’m not trying to terminate a pregnancy

in Texas. That’s Him, too, my God:
a heavyweight, like yours. A clubber.
Tremendous overhand when punching down,
but slow in footwork these days. Getting old.

Gets to us all. But your God:
oh, He’s strong, and big: so big
you just see part of Him: the fists,
the snarling jaw, quick to avenge

an insult, like Whitman’s American:
you never see the hands untaped,
without the gloves, cupped
to cradle children, all unmartial,

almost feminine: or do you?
Was it a hungry baby’s cries
your wages couldn’t satisfy
that made Big Daddy God seem so appealing?

Did a life of smiling at the men who killed you slowly
make you avid for the day you would bark orders
from the barrel of an AK-47?
Did you ask yourself my God, what have I done,

when you first saw what bullets did to bodies,
or were you hardened by a life lived under guns,
in rubble, at the sharp end of the flattened world?
We cannot know, of course. We have the words

that you recited to a camera
in another holy warrior’s hand. A truth,
or catechism? Form of words
or credo from the core?

What would you tell us without the camera,
the foreknowledge of the act
that you would justify on film?
Without the act, the headline – would we listen?

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