Poem: Atheogenesis

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Sad television stars slip silver dollars into the offering plates

At the end of the wooden pews

And lumber toward seats among mannequins, Mayakovski, and me.

Yes, mannequins,

Brown and plastic,

Side by side,

Awaiting a sermon.


“You dream you’re sitting

In a church among dummies,”

Freud reflects from the next pew.

“With a poet!” I resist, lucidly.

But, of course, the dummies burst into song

And flames.


Their voices and the heat intensify

With the tart smell of tan plastic burning.

Ashes float as it strikes me as odd

That this is the first time

That I have ever considered this place



There is no fire alarm,

No howling, piercing shriek in the yellow blaze,

No sporadic, spasming flashes

To warn the innocent and their guilty goats.



“What about the fun we had?”

My curly-haired Sunday school teacher asks,

Brushing blackening embers from the burns in her dress.

“The Traditions?”


I’m definitely not thinking of Holy War or female circumcision.

And I’m definitely not telling her.


I’m not praying for an omnipotent deity

To vanquish sweaty, leather-clad Amalekites

And pile them among the splayed flesh

Of all my other scowling enemies.


My brother-in-law holds a prayer book open across his face

In the swelling smoke,

Looking almost enviably drunk,

As pillars collapse

On teams of other well-dressed worshipers

Unmoved and unmoving.


I seem to be the only one

Whose dry throat can’t swallow

The parched air of panicked disappointment

In these fiery mistakes of the past.


–For Orli Auslander


Photo Credit: Best and Worst Ever under (CC BY 2.5) via Blogspot