No 17 - May 2002
I liked my Bible because it had a lilac cover
And judged it by that. (Which is normal
for nine.) With its pages thin as old skin and
gilt-edged, It just asked to be touched, to be
opened. The pleasures inside even more.
I always turned first to the back for the
maps. Diluted blue seas, all limpid and calm.
Pale-butter-coloured countries called Cush, Phut, and Lud.
Made-up sounding names - Edom, Moab, Uz, and Gad.
Tongue-twisting Caesarea Philippi. (Tongue-twisting at ten, anyway.)
The pictures were a first encounter with
‘difference’. A grown woman on a donkey (and no seaside ride).
Men who wore table-cloths on their heads (the grandmotherly tassled
Men with long hair. People without shoes - as if It were
normal. Feet of ancient times.
Though some things familiar: scenery like
the Lake District, though not so rained-on green. Jesus calming a storm like
that Suffolk holiday we watched the life-boat go out into terrible seas.
And Joseph looked weary -
as fathers often did.
A very considerate Bible.
The Crucifixion was not pictured.
There was no Mary upset,
And enough punctuation to last a life-time. It suggested generosity.
And you could spot whole
alphabets of new words to embroider the tongue with -
alabaster ... bondage ... covenant ... dwelt
epistle ... firmament ... gird ... howbeit
iniquity ... jubilee ... kindred ... loins
I played with them, juggled them, bright shapes without the
shadows of ‘meaning’ -
“anoint an ass” -
“brethren beget bondage” -
“the balm of a psalm” ...
and some went spinning off and caught Onto non-Bible words -
“quench a wench” -
“bribe a scribe” -
So imagine my disappointment when, in a dull and secondary classroom,
we were dragged through what it all actually said.
I already knew the Christmas stuff - the way you
do. Christmas and Crucifixion. And a few
miracles, Loaves and fishes. But
all that ‘old men’ stuff and God wobbling His
angry beard and taking things out on people, and sick
jokes like telling people to kill their children and
changing His mind at the last
minute. And fancy any father taking notice of a
God that’d even suggest such a thing.
And if I’d been Job, quite frankly I’d’ve
given Him the finger and
gone the other way.
And the women given such a hard time - or
blamed for everything (me growing up curious as Eve),
And I think they just made that up about Salome and
the head on the plate, There was a man behind
that: a woman’ld never think up something like
that. She’d think, ‘Somebody’s child’, and
not go through with it.
All that - it really put me off my Bible for a while.
But now I remember my Bible for what it really taught me -
the loveliness of lilac, otherness -
Phut, Uz, Caesarea Philippi
maps of lands diluted in sunshine
And words - words -
equity - hearken - plenteousness -
replenish - vineyard - yieldeth -
- 10th Muse
- Angel Exhaust
- Blithe Spirit
- Brando's hat
- Brittle Star
- Cannon's Mouth, The
- Coffee House, The
- Dream Catcher
- Floating Bear, The
- French Literary Review, The
- Frogmore Papers, The
- Global Tapestry
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- Homeless Diamonds
- Interpreter's House, The
- Journal, The
- Lamport Court
- London Magazine, The
- Modern Poetry in Translation
- Monkey Kettle
- Neon Highway
- New Welsh Review
- North, The
- Obsessed with pipework
- Oxford Poetry
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- Paper, The
- Pen Pusher Magazine
- Poetry Cornwall
- Poetry London
- Poetry London (1951)
- Poetry Nation
- Poetry Review, The
- Poetry Salzburg Review
- Poetry Scotland
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- Private Tutor
- Purple Patch
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- Review, The
- Rialto, The
- Second Aeon
- Seventh Quarry, The
- Smiths Knoll
- Strange Faeces
- Tabla Book of New Verse, The
- Tolling Elves
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- Yellow Crane, The