So God Created ...

Musings on a statement by Voltaire
An extended version of the similarly
named poem given earlier

"So God created man in His own image,
In the image of God created He him."

Gray piles of scrag and green hills cut away
To desolate some holy mountain
Can not cause the stomach to revolt
So much as the repulsive countenance
Of that man I saw yesterday.
The eyes, those eyes bestreaked with blood
That looked out through the snarling visage
Of a beast which, trapped,
Is being torn to pieces by a hound!
Cold and beaten was his stare.
Ah no, no flame was there,
No brilliant, lordly snarling flash
Which a trapped animal would have, no;
Just the blinded stupor of a drunkard
eating peanuts on the subway,
With a smell about him
That cheap liquor and roasted peanuts
Can perpetrate upon the world ---
And peanut shells and husks
Strewn on the floor beneath him,
With a couple hanging on his ragged pants
Like barnacles which cling to an old pile
In filthy waters.
God, what a look! And how he lurched
Against the nervous shop girl
In the seat beside him.
It makes me sick to think of it.
I can but ask, how say you:
Was this the image of God?

The air is thick and hot in here,
And you can hardly see
Your hand before you:
Hot and sticky, with a stench
Of clouded steam and sweat.
Ah yes, a man of means will go through much
To tone up his condition, yes,
You bet choo --- like that fellow there
Who swings his arms, sucks in his breath,
And trusts the sorcery of steam
To make the later morning give release
From retribution for the reeling wonder
Of a sparkling dance a few hours past
With a dreamy partner
Pressing to his grasp,

The music sweeping them along in great oblivion ---
Man and woman, with a sweet sick feeling
As their bodies touched each other ---
And then a consummation in a room upstairs.
Ah, that was rapture, that
And yet, to see him now,
A little fat about the middle,
Gasping at the air and waving
Those short arms around
A pudgy body on a pair of
Shapeless, puffy legs, you'd wonder
If this softened person
Was much more than --- just
A softened person, slightly fat ---
But not a God,
Great Christopher,
Not that!

Oh it's nice to think about
The vision splendid,
What a man can be,
But see that apostatic wretch
Toss down a cordial with one gulp
As though it were so much bath-water!
That is sacrilege, I say, and worse ---
For sacrilegious persons have been noble
On occasion --- just the kind of person
That would lead a little girl on to
The greatest gift her youth can offer
In devotion, never letting on
That he's been married these long years.
Of that I've seen aplenty in my time.
I've seen a man run up to the flight deck
Of a sinking aircraft carrier,
His life-belt on, and over this
His own roommate's Mae West.
To Hell with him, let him look to himself.
Maybe he'll find two more somewhere,
With just enough to go around.

And there you have it:
Every vice and weakness
That a man can have or dream up
Came to have a name because,
Ah, here's the pity:
There's enough of us poor weaklings,
Wretched devils, in this world
To make us sprinkle our vocabulary
With words that shouldn't be extant
But have to be, or else we couldn't truthfully
Describe our own behavior.

"What wonders God hath wrought,"
You might say. But, no purist He,
He took a statue noble and exalted ---
Not for adoration, no,
But for a model out of which to fashion
Some chorus girl's tinsel wardrobe!

No wonder that old Franc who in himself embodied
       Both the dust and the divine,
       That frigid fire,
       Philanthropic misanthrope,
Could kindle sparks of righteous wrath in those
       Who loved the Lord
And tickle unbelievers
As his tongue traced out against his cheek, to wit:
       God created man in his own image
       And man returned him the compliment

Yet, there is not a god on Mount Olympus
Who'd not swell his chest with pride
To have himself compared in part at least
To some men I have seen.
But I have heard of men who in themselves
Belied their statement, nonetheless proclaiming
Man a worm. (And there are times when
All in all, or more exact, considering the part
Without the whole, you'd have to grant
There is some truth in what they say.)

But then again, I saw a symphony conductor once
Who as he led his mighty orchestra
In sweeping spirit through Beethoven's Sixth
Looked more to me, there, like a God
Than like a wretched worm.
To me right there and then, I say.
It matters not and is irrelevant
For you to say he doesn't look quite so exalted
Putting lather on his face to shave,
Or grumbling at some bill collector's claim.
Oh, I have had moments, like the rest;
But when I had the good ones, in my breast
Was something that is hard to name or term.
But, by the gods, I know I'm not a worm.

You have both sides, you see,
And which of these can claim
To be essential man
Let those decide who think they can.
For me, I say: A pitcher with a flaw,
Or better still, a hero ever striving
Yet earthbound, Promethean in stature
Yet, withal, a never-ending Almost,
Stumbling on between the brute
And what he might become,
Yes, does become at times.

Ah, funny, that,
A bon mot, that, François,
About the tit for tat
In the creation story --- yet
You might have added in your cool derision, that
None but those who held or at least felt
The pattern of divinity within themselves
Could dream up from the sweat and grime of years
A splendor such as that to love ---
And strive, in vain, perhaps,
To make the Image spring to life
In their own bosom.


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