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POETRY

poems of the month

fish

vagabondage

measuring my face

ostracism

old clothes

modern iranian poems

my hero

face at the bottom of the world

perhaps (maybe)

the diogenes sequence

where to store furs

i am and am not:
      fragments of rumi

destiny and destination

the zen of no-enlightenment

the iraqi monologues

already backwards

a light in ruins

the sexy jihad

awaiting the barbarians

the smell of possibilities

ultimate leaves

rejoice in the dog

post-millennium maggot

the book of nothing

dispatches from the war against the world

albanian poems

french poems in honour of jean genet

the hells going on

the joy of suicide

book disease

foreground trouble

the transcendental hotel

cinema of the blind

lament of the earth mother

uranian poems

haikai by okami

haikai on the edge

black hole of your heart

jung's motel

leda and the swan

confession from belgrade

gloss on rilke's
ninth duino elegy

jewels and shit:
poems by rimbaud

villon's dialogue with his heart

vasko popa:
a shepherd of wolves ?

the rubáiyát of omar khayyám

genrikh sapgir:
an ironic mystic

imagepoem

 

BETWEEN POETRY AND PROSE

good riddance to mankind

the maxims of michel de montaigne

400 revolutionary maxims

nice men and
  suicide of an alien

anti-fairy tales

the most terrible event in history

the rich man and the leper

disgusting

art, truth and bafflement

 

TRANSLATIONS

 

SHORT STORIES

godpieces

the three bears

three albanian tales

odorous underwear

a little creation story

 

ESSAYS & MEMOIRS

a curious and peculiar
kind of queer

the ivory palace

helen's tower

extortion through e-bay

schopenhauer for muthafuckas

are doctors autistic ?

single track in the snow

never a pygmy

against money

did franco die ?

'original sin' followed by
crippled consciousness

a gay man's guide to soft-willy sex

the holosensual alternative

tiger wine

the death of poetry

the absinthe drinker

with mrs dalloway in ukraine

love  and  hell

running on emptiness

a holocaust near you

a note on the cathars

happiness

londons of the mind

genocide

a muezzin from the tower of darkness

kegan and kagan

being or television

satan in the groin

womb of half-fogged mirrors

tourism and terrorism

the dog from sinope

combatting normality

shoplifting
in britain & america

this sorry scheme of things

the bektashi dervishes

a holy dog
& a dog-headed saint

fools for nothingness

death of a bestseller

vacuum of desire: a homo-erotic correspondence

a note on beards

translation and the oulipo

the visit

 

PHOTOGRAPHS

prelude

metamorphotos

 

Nuadú, God of War

field guide to megalithic ireland

houses for the dead

ireland & the phallic continuum

the sheela-na-gig conundrum

french megaliths

a small town in france

western values

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

GODPIECES

by

EMMA WHITEHEAD


 

1. GOD'S CREATION


‘God?'

‘Yes, Adam.'

‘Make me a mate. I've seen some of your other stuff - it's very good - I'd pay you for your time of course, and materials. I value your work - it's Significant.'

God blushed. A commission he thought - recognition at last.
Fired with the enthusiasm born of praise, he set to work moulding, cutting, shaping and forming creases and crevices. From time to time he'd stand some distance from his project squinting critically, because he knew, as all artists did, if the shape held true in the half-light of self-imposed myopia - it would be good.

Time passed and he realised that soon he'd have to stop, yet he dreaded the moment when every detail was defined and the only potential left was for completely overdoing it. He shuddered as the image of downy pink flamingo wings quivered unbidden in his mind. What background should he use ? Presentation was vital in these cases - did it need more green? Was there too much green? A predilection for the verdant was his signature style, but the critics could be vicious.
He added a fruit tree.

But he needn't have worried. Adam was overjoyed.
‘Does it work?'

‘Of course - all moving parts and just for you, I added a voice.'

God was almost moved to tears to see the look of innocent awe in Adam's eyes.

‘How much do I owe you?'
‘Oh I can't think about that at the moment.'

God, basking in the smug warmth of artistic appreciation, could not bear to dwell on such matters. ‘Let's start her up and we'll talk it over later.'

: : : : : :

‘Well, what does it taste like?'

‘Crunchy and a bit sour. Have you paid him yet?' she asked.

‘What? Well no, I was waiting for him to bring it up.' Adam shifted uncomfortably: a gnarled burr was scratching his side as he leant back against the tree. Eve stretched her legs out in front of her and wriggled her toes in the thick moss.

‘Don't be paying over the odds. You should have agreed a price before he started the work. He'll land you with a huge bill when you're least expecting it.'

‘He's not like that. Anyway I did it for you, sweetheart.'

Eve rolled on her side and the half-eaten apple that had been lying in her lap fell on the grass between them. She gave him one of the long icy stares he had learnt to dread.

‘You did it in order to meet me.'
She picked up the apple, flopped onto her back and took another bite while she gazed up at the sky through the branches.

‘I've realised a few things recently and I don't think he's so uniquely talented. I reckon we could have a go at making something like that ourselves.'
‘Like what?'
‘Like you, or maybe even me if we're lucky.'

Adam snorted, ‘As if, when was the last time you did anything artistic?'

Eve sat up, licked some apple pulp off her fingertips, reached over and slowly grazed her nail along his collarbone.

‘Doesn't matter,' she paused and lowered her voice to almost a whisper ‘- and I know why he hasn't asked for any payment.'

Adam, not daring to move for fear she stopped what she was doing, managed a hoarse ‘Why?' praying all the while it wouldn't disturb the trajectory of that unexpectedly momentous digit.

‘Because I think he knows we'd be short-changed paying anything. Buy the work of art and all you get to do is look at it.' She leaned even closer.
‘The real fun's in the making of it.'

Eve's finger had reached the indentation at his sternum. He couldn't take his eyes off it. Then she stopped, picked up the apple and held it to his lips.
‘You hungry?' she asked, grinning at his obvious distress.

And so began the large-scale production of people for a global market. The art of the individual master craftsman became obsolete and God moved on.

 

2. GOD'S TABLE


God surveyed the table settings. He slumped forward and lowered his forehead into a comforting cushion of lotus-shaped napkin.
‘I'm going to have to re-do that one. Do you know how long they take?'
Gabriel's usual veneer of equanimity was wearing thin.

‘Whose bright idea was this anyway?' God's sonorous tones were muffled by a face full of table linen. He wanted to go to bed and stay there for about a week. Instead he turned so his cheek rested against the freshly laundered coolness and glared at Gabriel who had the grace to look contrite.

‘It's been an age since we had them round,' Gabriel muttered, ‘I thought just a friendly informal gathering,' his voice trailed off.
‘It's not turning out like that is it?' God snapped.

‘Well I'd forgotten there were so many - you know how it is - it's hard to keep track over the years and we can't invite some and not others - there'd be talk.'

God sat up, ‘Oh, Heaven forbid there'd be talk - we can't have that.' His voice softened as he caught sight of Gabriel's misery. ‘OK, OK- let's look at it again.'
He bent down to pick up the scrappy ball of paper that had rolled under the table and smoothed it out. Gabriel opened his folder and scanned his considerably more pristine list.

‘Apologies first,' Gabriel was all business again, ‘Gregory, The Venerable Bede and Mary Magdalene can't make it - they're having their own party.'
‘Really, you'd think they could make the effort.'
‘You go ahead and feel put out if you want to but it is their Saint's-Day. We were bound to clash with somebody.'
Gabriel seemed to be talking directly to his folder.
‘Besides we only have chairs for 12,743, so I for one am feeling relieved.'

‘OK- whatever - what about music? No open mike, I don't think I could stick another forty-minute solo in Welsh about the evils of drink, from David and his sodding harp. You could get your trumpet out after dinner - liven things up a bit….'

Gabriel preened. It was always nice to have his musical talent appreciated and Cecelia and he had got together for a couple of sessions in the past few weeks - just in case they were asked - on the spur of the moment - best to be prepared.
‘So, do we put like with like or mix them up?'
‘We can't put Catherine with Sebastian - she'd be bored senseless'.

God rolled his eyes; Gabriel always did have a soft spot for the pretty ones, but all he said was
‘Anyone would be bored senseless - all he does is witter on about old military campaigns. Stick him with Michael they have far more in common...and what about the tree-huggers and animal lovers? I take it we just lump them down the bottom end - they never want to talk to anyone else anyway.'

‘Can do - and Christopher?'
‘What about him?'
Gabriel sighed, ‘he'll need a double place setting and he can't be put anywhere near Vincent'
‘Why not?'
Gabriel tried to smother a grin ‘calls him dog-breath - childish I know but what can you expect?'
‘Fine - whatever you think, as long as I don't end up beside Patrick again. I'm not sitting through another lecture about Isambard bloody Kingdom Brunel - bloody engineers,' he glanced up at Gabriel. ‘That's a thought.'
‘What?'
‘Won't you need extra table linen for the stigmatics and martyrs?' He smirked as he watched Gabriel scurry away in panic.

‘They do tend to seep,' he shouted, unable to resist one last dig as Gabriel disappeared into the distance.

 

3. GOD'S WORD


‘So how's it going?'
‘I need more paper,' God grunted.

Gabriel's fingers tapped out trumpet chords on the wall behind him, a sure sign he was feeling nervous. Who wouldn't be? There had been portents of course - they all knew what was coming and everyone felt edgy - which didn't help matters.
‘I said how's it going?'

God glanced up from his desk, ‘I need more paper,' he hissed. The table was covered with paper.

Not a good omen thought Gabriel and the look on God's face said it all - manic-depressive nut riding the upswing. There'd be hell to pay and he'd bear the brunt of it as usual.
God scribbled furiously with a half-inch stub of graphite, as appropriate to the task as a twig. Gabriel hurried over to the stationery cupboard and scanned the shelves.

‘You need a new pencil,' he said using the ‘talking to the elderly' voice that emerged unbidden whenever God was this focused. He shoved a ream of paper out of the way to make room for the open box of HB's and leaves of white A4 floated to the floor joining the others.
Gabriel felt weary. Thank goodness he'd stocked up recently. He shuddered remembering the last time they'd run out. It hadn't slowed God down. He didn't care what he used when the mood took him; walls, furniture, grass, stone - it was all the same to him.
‘Do you need anything else?'

God ignored him.

‘I said do you need anything else?'

‘Bugger off will you - I can't think with you hovering about like this'
‘OK.'

Gabriel pulled the door behind him listening intently for the almost inaudible click as it shut. Out in the corridor he pounded up and down, silently screaming his frustration until he felt his right knee pop again. The only thing he could do was leave him to it - until he was summoned. It wouldn't be Gabriel hovering then - no - there'd be a constant presence; God watching over his shoulder attuned to the critical implications of the slightest involuntary sniffle. And the endless reassurance - well at least he wouldn't be the only one blessed with that task. The whole host of heaven would have to read it before God was satisfied that there weren't too many adjectives and clichés.

Gabriel sighed as he limped down the corridor. Finding somebody to take it would be the next obstacle. He'd have to consult his database. At least he could do that without constant interference - God wasn't the most computer literate of beings - and it would give him the chance to pre-select the likeliest candidates. Good quality prophets were few and far between these days, it was a buyers market; they could afford to be fussy.

God didn't deal well with rejection.

 

4. GOD'S MESSENGERS


“What in Heaven's name were you thinking?”
God examined his fingers, wincing as he pulled at a rag-nail. “Well?”
Gabriel was standing, arms crossed and glaring as God shifted uneasily in his seat.
Strident and schoolmarmish, thought God.
“Can't we go back to my office?” he asked.
“You want to go back to your office? Fine, fine.”

Gabriel paced up and down rubbing the palm of his hand across his face as if he could erase his irritation.
“Might be a bit crowded what with the crises-management session in progress.” His voice had taken on a shrill note,
“What were you thinking?”
He stopped and stared at the hunched figure before him. God sucked the edge of his nail were it had started to bleed.
“I just wanted a friendly chat that's all.”

Gabriel continued to stare. God couldn't tell whether he was truly speechless or trying to heighten his already impressive aura of indignation. He added drama-queen to his private list of Gabrielian qualities.
“Who's going to deal with it?” he asked to break the silence.
Gabriel snapped out of his reverie,
“Michael will be the liaison, Uriel's doing back-up.”
His voice softened as he continued: “You promised to use the system. That's what it's set up for.”

He drifted over to the chair beside God and the plastic creaked as he sat down, leaned back and hands cupped behind his head stared up at the ceiling.
“I know, I am sorry,” God paused...“They told you to keep me out of the way didn't they?”
“Yep,” Gabriel seemed as fascinated by the cracks in the ceiling as God was by those in the floor. “And don't go feeling sorry for yourself, you're not entitled.”
“I wanted to see how things were going that's all. A bit of a catch-up …” God's voice trailed off as Gabriel leaned forward in lecture mode.
“And you could have if you'd gone through the proper channels. That's what we're here for.”
“I know, but it's not the same - too formal. Abe's a mate.”

God had started chewing at the thumb of his left hand.
“He might not be after this.”
Gabriel faltered, realising he might have gone too far.
“We will be in time won't we?” God was sombre.
“Of course - it's all in hand,” Gabriel sounded too reassuring even to himself.
They jumped as the door opened and Uriel popped his head round.
“Everything OK?” they asked.
Uriel nodded and disappeared, then reappeared almost immediately.
“Anyone any idea where I could find a calf or a lamb or something?”

Gabriel cleared his throat,
“Is that for…?”
He stopped as Uriel nodded vigorously.
“It's fine, I nipped down with the ram from the south paddock before I …”
He glanced at God who had the grace to interrupt.
“Before he began his babysitting duties here.”
Gabriel rolled his eyes and Uriel smirked self-consciously.
“I left it hidden in the thicket.”
“Great,” Uriel's relief was audible, “have to rush, hope it hasn't run off before…”

They had to imagine the end of the sentence as the door had already closed. They lapsed into silence. Gabriel began pacing up and down again and God had to sit on his hands vaguely appalled by the notion he might have chewed his nails so much they wouldn't grow back.

It was Gabriel who broke the silence,
“What did you say to him anyway?”
God suppressed a sigh,
“I don't know, I can't remember exactly. I just asked if he wanted to meet up for a chat and a bite to eat, you know - the usual, oh and to bring the boy of course.”
“Of course,” said Gabriel a tad icily, “and what's the usual exactly?”
“Well,” said God, choosing to ignore the tone of the conversation, “we'd meet up - he'd bring the meat for the barbie and we'd have a natter.”

Gabriel slumped into his seat again, put his head in his hands and groaned.
“Don't you see - they're all so bloody literal. I mean did you say to bring lamb or beef or what?”
“No…” God paused, “just to bring the boy…but he couldn't have thought I meant that...
I mean Abe has such a great sense of humour we're on the same wavelength...he couldn't have.”
“You can't make those sort of assumptions anymore, especially not post-Babel,”
Gabriel glanced sideways. God was studiously examining his mutilated fingers.
“Look, I know I buggered up again and yes after the flood fiasco and then Babel,” he coughed with embarrassment.
“I promised I wouldn't start any more community projects but this was just an informal get-together with his family.”

He was interrupted, mercifully he thought, by the door opening - Michael strode in.
“All clear - no damage done,” he announced. Gabriel and God breathed out heavily.
“No more - OK,” Gabriel's tone surprised everyone.
God met Gabriel's eyes for the first time since the crises began.
“No more,” he said quietly. “So, do I get my office back?”
When Gabriel nodded he made a hasty exit.

“And?”
Michael was leaning casually against the wall.
Always so bloody calm, thought Gabriel.
“Well, he's promised again.”
“Until the next time,” added Michael as he followed him out.


5. GOD'S CALLING*


"We can't keep putting it off."

Gabriel leant back in the new, leatherette, end-of-line director's chair and yawned.
God didn't look up from his paperwork.

"And are we ready? It was you who asked for the last extension."
"I know. You needn't remind me." He flicked listlessly through the papers on his knee.
He was glad he'd pushed for the increase in budget for the new office furniture - but maybe God had a point: up the comfort level and you up the snooze level. God had stuck with the tatty, orange, plastic seat that had migrated from the canteen æons ago. Probably a good idea in the circumstances.

"There's no real reason why we can't go ahead. We've sorted out that bit at the back of the South Pasture - nice and green and private."
God looked up. "He is long overdue."
"People might start to notice I suppose." Gabriel tried to stifle a yawn.
"I'm told he has a great sense of humour."

God winced.
Gabriel doodled idly around the name at the top of his sheet - he turned the P into a daisy and drew little stars all around it. God drummed his fingers on his desk.
"A few more years wouldn't hurt," he announced decisively.
"And who are we to upset the Process at this pivotal juncture." Gabriel had brightened up considerably.

Despite his advancing years Big Ian would just have to wait.


*click for Alternative Universal Version

 

6. GOD'S SON


"Betty…Betty ?"
He knew she could hear him but he was buggered if he was going to traipse in to the scullery to get a response. "Betty" he leaned back as he yelled, balancing on two legs of the chair and peering over his shoulder in the hope of catching sight of her actively ignoring him.
"You"ll ruin the furniture doing that."

Zach flinched. "You"ll ruin me - don't do that - it's not good for me at my age." He watched her broad back sway past him, her arms over-laden with what ? Bed-linen maybe. He wondered, not for the first time, why, now they had their very own private piece of heaven, they needed so much stuff.
"Betty" he snapped as she disappeared round the corner.

Her face appeared in the doorway. "For goodness sake what is it?"

"He's back again - look." He nodded towards the window and Betty followed his gaze. Zach took a certain guilty pleasure in her uncharacteristic loss of composure.

"Good grief - Zach - look at the floor - I haven't swept...and the dust - you could swim through it."

Zach was on his feet taking the pile of bedclothes out of her arms. "Don't worry love - you go back to the kitchen and put on the water. I"ll sort out in here. He's still up on the ridge - he said the last time he likes the walk down - he"ll take his time."

He ushered Betty back into the scullery and retrieved the feather duster from its hook behind the door. He could hear the clatter of tins and plates as he half-heartedly flicked the duster around. At least he'd get a decent bit of cake today. "I don't know why he picks on us" he muttered.
"Zach - don't start - he's family." Betty's hearing had resumed its habitual sharpness.

"Your family you mean. Your Mary's fault - getting above herself. Nothing wrong with family - in its place - but there are limits. It's not as if he hasn't got work to do. I mean how many times in the past year?"

Betty's worried face popped round the door "Zach please, just think before you speak. Count to ten or something. Remember the run-in with Gabriel. We don't want a repeat of that."

"That guy has no sense of humour."
Betty's frown deepened.
"OK, OK."

Mollified she disappeared again. "Anyway" her voice sounded muffled as if she was talking from the back of a cupboard, "he has a lot on his mind at the moment what with the boy and all."

"And that's another thing," Zach was sounding tetchy again.
"What makes him think we want to hear all about his son. Do we not have enough on our plate with our John? I mean his boy is wild and causing all sorts of mayhem but we went through it too with our John's mad schemes and even if John is older - his boy's a bad influence. Anyway, when he's had to put up with the sanctimonious preaching and the weird clothes and the foot fungus" - Zach's face twisted in distaste - "and at our age as well - then - maybe then - I"ll listen."

Betty emerged from the scullery and stood in front of him. She untied her apron, put her hands up to his face and gently cupped his wrinkled cheeks.
"Did you never think," she said looking into his eyes, "he comes here because he reckons we
have been through it all with our John and maybe he thinks you might be able to offer him some advice - father to father ?"

Zach opened his mouth as if he was about to speak and closed it again. Betty smiled and Zach, unwilling to lose his reputation as a man rarely at a loss for words, eventually said "Well perhaps he has some sense then."

There was a knock at the door. Betty opened it and there, wiping his feet on the doormat, was God, holding out a spiky plant in a plastic pot. "I brought you a euphorbia."

* * *

"Just a splash, thanks Betty." God held his cup out for more coffee. "I mean when he said he wanted to live with his mother - I didn't stand in his way, but then he accuses me of being too remote." God turned to Zach "Do you think I'm too remote ?"

Betty's eyes narrowed. Zach, to his credit, had been on his best behaviour so far, spending most of his time picking cake crumbs out of his sleeves, but that was because he hadn't had a chance to interrupt. God was in a right state. That boy was nothing but trouble - spoilt - she'd said as much to Mary.

"Well," Zach straightened up in his chair. Betty glared at him over her coffee cup. She knew the signs. He was about to launch into one of his opinions.
"Because it's awkward, you know - with the situation."

Betty spluttered a mouthful of coffee back into her cup, startled by her own relief. God was in full flow - what he wanted was an audience.
"You alright love?" Zach was looking at her.
"I'm fine." She held the cup on her lap, "it went down the wrong way that's all. You were saying?" she nodded in God's direction.

"I can't just call in when I'm passing - there'd be a riot back at the office. Have to follow protocols." Zach smirked at God's passable imitation of Gabriel at his most officious. Betty glared at both of them. God cleared his throat, "Anyway there's Joe to think of. He might not take kindly to me …" God's voice trailed off. All three of them sat, nodding in unison.

"Discipline," Zach broke the silence, "that's what the boy needs."
"Now Zach," Betty started.
"No Betty - I'm going to say what I think," Zach announced as God sipped his coffee. "Others can learn from our mistakes - I didn't put my foot down when I should have with our John. Your boy needs to be told to come back and take responsibility. The tantrums and the showing off - they have an impact on people's lives. He needs to grow up and face the consequences." Zach gathered his breath to continue.

Betty reached over and gently squeezed his knee. "Maybe," she said as Zach looked quizzically at her hand, "the tantrums and so on, are about wanting a bit of attention - maybe it"d be no bad thing to bring him back here for a while."
"What if he doesn't want to come?" God was staring at the dregs in his cup. "What if he runs away? He has so many friends down there now."
"Well," said Betty. "If he runs away, you go and get him and bring him back. Get him involved, show him what you do.
He's a bright lad; he"ll want to make his mark."


more to follow


© MMVII Emma Whitehead


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