Sunday, April 12, 2020

Sandburg for Easter—National Poetry Month 2020

Carl Sandburg's contemporary, the Socialist cartoonist Art Young, shared his understanding of Jesus.

For those of you lost in the fog of Coronavirus sequestration, it’s Easter, the holiest day of the Christian year.  I bet some you wish some angel would roll the stone away from your tomb.  Anyway, blessings on all who hold this day in their hearts.  But if you checked in at this blog today for the whole Easter story, you will be disappointed.  You can find that plus lots of commentary this morning at any of the churches meeting virtually today.  I do not recommend going out to one of those defiant churches open for business this morning—despite what the smarmy pastor says the Lord will not protect you, your family, and anyone you come in contact with from the current plague.

Carl Sandburg in Chicago.  He knew whereof he wrote.
Instead we are going to hear a different perspective by my favorite American poet—Carl Sandburg.  The small town son of Swedish immigrants, Spanish American War vet who never got to Cuba, sometimes hobo, Universalist, Socialist, and Chicago newspaper reporter was mightily put out by the shenanigans of Billy Sunday, the former baseball player and hair-on-fire tent show Evangelist.  He was even more outraged at the capitalist bosses and their bought-and-paid-for politicians who benefited from Sunday side show freak distraction.  Sandburg let loose a volcanic eruption of a poem.

Billy Sunday doing his schtick.
If the old poet was still with us today he would have no problem recognizing Billy Sunday’s heirs—Franklin Graham and a gaggle of others, or the evil oligarchy that uses them and their clownish front man, the Cheeto-in-Charge.

Have at ‘em, Carl!

To A Contemporary Bunkshooter

You come along. . . tearing your shirt. . . yelling about
Where do you get that stuff?
What do you know about Jesus?
Jesus had a way of talking soft and outside of a few
bankers and higher-ups among the con men of Jerusalem
everybody liked to have this Jesus around because
he never made any fake passes and everything
he said went and he helped the sick and gave the
people hope.

You come along squirting words at us, shaking your fist
and calling us all damn fools so fierce the froth slobbers
over your lips. . . always blabbing we're all
going to hell straight off and you know all about it.

I’ve read Jesus words. I know what he said. You don’t
throw any scare into me. I’ve got your number. I
know how much you know about Jesus.

He never came near clean people or dirty people but
they felt cleaner because he came along. It was your
crowd of bankers and business men and lawyers
hired the sluggers and murderers who put Jesus out
of the running.

I say the same bunch backing you nailed the nails into
the hands of this Jesus of Nazareth. He had lined
up against him the same crooks and strong-arm men
now lined up with you paying your way.

This Jesus was good to look at, smelled good, listened
good. He threw out something fresh and beautiful
from the skin of his body and the touch of his hands
wherever he passed along.
You slimy bunkshooter, you put a smut on every human
blossom in reach of your rotten breath belching
about hell-fire and hiccupping about this Man who
lived a clean life in Galilee.

When are you going to quit making the carpenters build
emergency hospitals for women and girls driven
crazy with wrecked nerves from your gibberish about
Jesus—I put it to you again: Where do you get that
stuff; what do you know about Jesus?

Go ahead and bust all the chairs you want to. Smash
a whole wagon load of furniture at every performance.
Turn sixty somersaults and stand on your
nutty head. If it wasn’t for the way you scare the
women and kids I’d feel sorry for you and pass the hat.
I like to watch a good four-flusher work, but not when
he starts people puking and calling for the doctors.
I like a man that’s got nerve and can pull off a great
original performance, but you—you’re only a bug-
house peddler of second-hand gospel—you’re only
shoving out a phony imitation of the goods this
Jesus wanted free as air and sunlight.

You tell people living in shanties Jesus is going to fix it
up all right with them by giving them mansions in
the skies after they’re dead and the worms have
eaten ‘em.
You tell $6 a week department store girls all they need
is Jesus; you take a steel trust wop, dead without
having lived, gray and shrunken at forty years of
age, and you tell him to look at Jesus on the cross
and he’ll be all right.
You tell poor people they don’t need any more money
on pay day and even if it’s fierce to be out of a job,
Jesus’ll fix that up all right, all right—all they gotta
do is take Jesus the way you say.
I’m telling you Jesus wouldn’t stand for the stuff you’re
handing out. Jesus played it different. The bankers
and lawyers of Jerusalem got their sluggers and
murderers to go after Jesus just because Jesus
wouldn't play their game. He didn’t sit in with
the big thieves.

I don’t want a lot of gab from a bunkshooter in my religion.
I won’t take my religion from any man who never works
except with his mouth and never cherishes any memory
except the face of the woman on the American
silver dollar.

I ask you to come through and show me where you’re
pouring out the blood of your life.

I’ve been to this suburb of Jerusalem they call Golgotha,
where they nailed Him, and I know if the story is
straight it was real blood ran from His hands and
the nail-holes, and it was real blood spurted in red
drops where the spear of the Roman soldier rammed
in between the ribs of this Jesus of Nazareth.

—Carl Sandburg

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