set to music here:
Father John, rotund and rhetorical,
took an Easter assembly of ours once:
in one hand a Bible;
in the other, two crossed sticks
with a nail bored through the middles.
To the raucous rabble of miniature,
cross-legged disciples, he recited a modern fable
of how he, as a boy lost on a beach,
found those two crossed sticks amongst grey stones
and sunken footprints in the sand.
In childish play, the crossed sticks:
first tempered to a sword, sparking against,
stabbing though, splicing shining knights;
then cocked into a tommy-gun gunning down gangsters’
guffaws and grimaces; then spread into a spitfire,
snaking and spluttering along the sea spray.
But then, held aloft in the light,
a shadow cast, the crossed sticks
became something else: a symbol, a sign,
a signal to the spiritual;
the crossed sticks became–
Boy! Out! Now!
Our Headmaster wrung my collar,
clipped my snigger out of the hall
and as I leant against the wall,
giggles replaced with tears,
Father John’s distant, muffled envoi meant
I had to imagine the crossed sticks’ final fate.
And I imagined them in flames,
hammered into the sand: the footprints dashed,
the scattered stones speckled with ash.
Tearing Rabbits Apart
The twins argued again:
one had the other’s back against the wall
as they banged against it.
Seeing yourself as the other every day
surely would drive you crazy:
every good not solely yours, every
nightmare repeated, a feedback loop
of genetics, of your love/hate translated
onto two too-familiar faces seen everyday
since your first day to the other’s last.
This particular day, Boxing day, was the day
after getting the gift of life, in a box with holes,
carrots now not just for sneaking onto
the other’s plate or for reindeer once a year.
But why weren’t there two rabbits?
Why didn’t this one have an other?
Would that have helped or just doubled
the murders, doubled the halves?
The opening of the future coffin
led almost instantly to a tug
of war over tender meat: hair bristled,
ears erect, young legs tense, short yelps
squeezed out of stretched lungs, pushed
through the other’s bared teeth.
Literary allusions come to mind: Solomon
offering half a child to each mother; Titus
Andronicus baking a family meal; Cronos
gnawing at his offspring’s limbs; Alan
eyeballing horses in Equus;
But no text prepares for the sight
of raw flesh exposed to air, of torn
sinew and peeled muscle and split
guts, of a dead rabbit’s dead eyes
still twitching, staring at you as if you
could stitch it back together again,
and of animal blood on children’s hands
as they tear up over what the other did.
If Adam’s Eyes were Blue
Not many people know this but God played snooker:
bit of a shark he was (as well as everything else).
Back in the days, before war or extinction, the animals
and the stars would travel, forest or galaxy,
to stake their skills or to simply watch God:
chalk his tip, stroke his cue, sink all his balls.
All wondered at Him for His screws and His doubles
and were awed just to shake His hand in destined defeat.
Except one that stood, frowning from thought: Monkey.
Though better than the rest (only because he had thumbs)
Monkey could never beat God; Monkey
would jump and shout and throw and break things
when he lost – God’s slow smile quickening Monkey’s mind.
It was on the sixth day – ‘Monkey versus God’
for the penultimate time: God cleaned up from break.
Monkey stood, frowned, twitched, ground his teeth then
jumped, shouted, threw, broke,
snapped God’s cue; with God’s back turned, Monkey
smiled, spat and patted to hide it, binding it together again
with a black hair from his backside.
Monkey handed the cue back to God and grunted “Rematch!”
God lifted the cue high, the blue of the sky becoming chalk at his reach.
The crowd, bodies and dust, watched as Monkey stood and God broke –
the cue snapped again and cut with laws unto itself eternal hands.
The blood fell on the white of the cue ball in tiny red snakes
as the sky’s blue chalk stamped its circle, branding
the Monkey’s black hair that had curled into a dot from shame.
And with a tear (from cut or betrayal no one knew), God soaked
the white ball: its red snakes, its blue stamp, its black dot,
as it rolled into an open pocket, snug as an eye in a socket.
Monkey laughed, pissing and drinking, as the animals
returned to their homes and the stars hurtled to heaven
for they all knew God would never play again:
He plunged the other balls into the cosmos;
He planted the broken wood into the ground,
rooting it with forgotten rules and forbidden knowledge;
and he left the table, a made man,
tanned from wear, to its own devices – blinking.
Luigi Coppola is a teacher, poet, first generation immigrant and avid rum and coke drinker. Bridport Prize shortlisted, Ledbury and National Competition longlisted, Poetry Archive Worldview winner’s list, publications include Worple Press’ anthology ‘The Tree Line’, Acumen, Ink, Sweat and Tears, Iota, Magma, Rattle and Rialto (read more here).