Satan was a Methodist
when I was child six days a week
and Jesus’ on Sundays.
Sermons were the hell
with which Frank Herson
blistered heaven Irish black
and scalded faint believers,
here for their weekly dose of hellfire
cooking god his Sunday dinner
on this stained glass stove,
to be shared among the sinners.
In the furnace that the preacher stoked
the devil would be well at home.
He saved us from the fire below
by firing up the earth so hot
the heat of it scorched heaven.
Where there’s eternal light
there must be eternal heat.
Sweating sinners close as armpits
straight and hard as galley oarsmen
set to row to heaven
come collection and Amen.
Onward Christian Sailors
To the right and to the left
silent sinners coughing softly
sniffling in their Sunday hankies,
taking hell like wafers
and sweating blood.
Heavy hymnals tabled on their knees,
crackling starch and singing louder
as if god were deaf as well as mute,
standing up at halftime,
squeezing voices into song,
taking on the endless verses
printed where the music ends
trading volume for relief.
Singing like they’re pressing bladders
hoping heaven’s has a pot.
Ready for salvation
in the vacuum when the organ stops,
they settle into humble prayer
meekly suffering benediction,
biting off a cough
and moaning love on cue.
I was scared they’d take me with them
where I didn’t really want to go,
but he made me worry Sundays.
Did I really want to stay behind
and wait for Satan
to come and pull me under?
I wondered if I didn’t go to hell
would He come and get me
for playing with my meat
by beating on my soul?
Is it as bad to spend a lifetime fearing hell
as suffering in the wrong heaven?
I was yet too young to ponder
L16,723 ®Copyright 1974 Jack Scott. All rights reserved.