‘Religion’ by Alvin Pang

by Alvin Pang

It’s always the Big Ideas
that get personified: Death, Wisdom, Eternity,
their capital letters lining up
in the cold marble halls of the unconscious.
You can tell by the flowing beard
and grand costumed gestures; the banners and fanfare
in stanza after stanza of classical poetry, centuries
of fat burghers posing in portraits
as the God of Fortune, or Zeus, or Nike.
As for my tribe of the incorrigibly second class,
whose deities will never reach the Spiritual Top Ten,
ours is a quieter worship, more commiseration
than awe. The Immortal of Loose Change is a favourite,
as is the God of Small Aches, Sore Knees and Bruises.
There’s a Muse for those of us who aren’t CEOs
and MPs, who never got straight As or went to Harvard,
who spend our days dusting behind History’s footnotes.
Not for us the Spirit of Nation or Race, the rattling of sabres.
Our patron saints send taxis going in our direction,
clearance sales, coupons for free saucepans and vitamins.
In our fables, the Angel of Assertiveness is forever battling
the Demon of Things Which Don’t Quite Work As Advertised,
and our Fall is in the bathroom, or down wet stairs,
never so precarious a perch as Paradise.
Somewhere we know there is a Heaven
for Lost Architecture, where every old building and stonepile
has its own address, and nothing ever gets torn down.
And then there’s one for the rest of us, an Afterlife
worth dying for: the Goddess of taking it slow,
of lazy afternoons and large warm fields of grass,
who comes to me as I fall asleep, her long hair
sweeping clouds under the sky’s endless carpet.
(from City of Rain, Ethos Books 2003)

Alvin Pang, poet, writer, editor and translator, has appeared in major festivals and publications worldwide and his work has been translated into over fifteen languages.  Recent publications include Waiting for the Barbarians, Arc Publications 2012.