Ain't Poverty Chic

Stephen Jackson

London, United Kingdom

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Wall Art


Artist's Description

Zakopane, South west Poland. These were probably gypsies, I’m told – but it could be anyone on the wrong side of the tracks, anywhere in the world.

J’ACCUSE [still in progress]

‘I should have more faith,’ Holmes said. ‘I ought to know by this time that when a fact appears opposed by a long train of deductions, it invariably proves to be capable of bearing some other interpretation…How often have I said to you that when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth?’

- Sir Arthur Conan Doyle: The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

Dog, dogma: dogma, God.
Where is our constant friend?
Where has he gone today?
- Is he:
Hiding under the table, like Spot the Dalmatian?
- Is he:
Perched on the windowsill, like Wee Willy Winky?
- Is he:
Creeping upon the stair, like the man who wasn’t there?
- Is he:
Some malign force in the skull of a drowned pig, like Legion?
His holiday haunt – just for this week – reposes in
“Our anthropic bias”: remote yet required, he is (like
Income Tax) and needed to explain
Why there’s so much soot in the cosmos.
Diligent astronomers line up, eager to assure:
It’s the Lord who puts lead in your pencil.

How hard of heart you think I must be
To scorn the longings of good people.
Only – oh, yes – I crave eternity as much as
Any of them: yearning as much as any for comfort;
Or to be promised that their lives (as much as mine)
Were not in vain – were not shop-soiled, or naked, or
Somehow dirtied. And so there has to be an anger,
Not of contempt, but of infrangible disappointment:
As if for a love that was pledged, yet which
Could not be; leaving only the wake of betrayal.
It’s not annihilation that is unbearable,
But only the possibility of hope.

There’s Samuel Butler, I suppose:
“Once we explain a thing, we must
Remove it from the sphere of divine action.”
You wily old snake, O Lord: whenever the glare of scrutiny
Dazzles you out, you bed down somewhere else.
“God of the Gaps” my logic tutor called you,
Slipping yourself into shadows, like a Spiv.
Concerning your account, too, the little question of
An infinite regress:
Of who created you – if it’s so bad to have
One uncreated thing;
Who fashioned the elegant architect, if elegance
Demands an architect – if brute coercion must,
For once, be beautiful?

Miracles? For sure, they’re all around us. Each feather
Or each song of the lyrebird is one; and but for
Another (less strange, they tell me,
Than the forming of a soap bubble) we’d not exist
At all. To think!
There’d be no chance for speculation, and an
Inanimate void might shimmer in its fecund silence –
Saved from our dissimulation, spared at least
The prattle of precarious minds.

“When I hear Bach, I know there is a God.”
No, Dr Einstein; you do not. When you hear Bach
You know there is a Bach.
Two things serve as the measure of humanity:
Compassion is one, and memory of pain.

Yeah, yeah: blah, blah. We need an afterlife to
Square the circle, make those grand impostors fair.
Trouble is, God old boy, we clocked your number long ago.
You made us a mite too bright; we pried too hard.
For God so loved our world, that he made flies
Whose maggots crawl into a sleeping brain –
Eating it away from inside:
And a child’s mind slithers down her nose, like snot.
For God so loved our world, he fashioned other worms
That creep towards the sun on stalks of wheat, and then
They’ll hitch a ride, guzzling through one’s skin with acid spit.
Soon afterwards they’ll shred the victim’s lights and lungs:
A grown man coughs on bloody gobbets – and, as he chokes,
They’ll slide down to his guts, to make their
Home Sweet Home.

I’ve seen the superhuman indignities of old age:
The long nights of senescent, emptied lives,
Meaning nothing, God, to you.
(Sparing that cracker-motto crap about the Hereafter
Wherein we rise, in a flurry of angels –
Preceded, inevitably, by choking on our false teeth.
It’s bollocks: like all your other, busted incentive
Schemes, that keep us lame, and tame, docile and debased.)

See, God old Sport – me old mate, me old Cobber – it’s not
As if your cruelty were a necessary evil:
Something to make us think, or learn, or grow.
No. Sadism, for you (inventive in a way;
Not lacking in imagination)…it’s vindictive,
Petty, needless, squalid, nasty, cheap.
It lays waste swathes of decent souls, like a pandemic:
It’s undeserved, and makes good people stumble;
It saps them, soils them, makes them less than once they were.

I know your meagre mind, O Lord, and your forbearance –
Thin as slime mould. You’re rubbish, God. God: you’re
Dead meat. Oh, and God? I spit on your grave.

Man’s profligacy comes from loneliness.
Beyond Man springs the abundance of what was never
Meant to be. Here, beyond our fingers, is the reckless, futile
Richness of what was unplanned. Stretch out your hand.
Ours is the bounty of the bold insurgent,
Not the pasty gaze of slaves.

Stephen Jackson January 2005 (Finished 2007)

Artwork Comments

  • Suzanne German
  • Susan Grissom
  • alexa70
  • Alessandro Pinto
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