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Talking about Movies with Jesus

December 20, 2013

XhFHOWalker and Eleanor are home for the holidays!  We have hung our stockings.  Eleanor brought a peacock ornament photo-242 from the National Gallery in London for our tree, and Walker brought a blue-and-white glass ball from a little art gallery in Oberlin.photo-241 They have duly admired my top-of-the-Christmas-tree-Castiel.

photo-243The wonderful, wide-ranging and heavily-referential kind of conversation that is possible with adult children is reminding me of a David Kirby poem, the poem from which one of his volumes takes its title:

Talking about Movies with Jesus
Luxembourg Gardens, Paris*

Those of you who prefer to think about Mary, Queen
of Scots as opposed to all those other decapitated monarchs
should try it here, near this statue,
which always makes me think of Jesus, seeing
as how she was born Catholic and he became one after he’d finished

the Jewish phase of his career. Why “Luxembourg,”
though? Nobody seems to know. Today, the country
itself is the world’s only grand duchy, meaning it is ruled
by a grand duke. And who’s Jesus
today? Well, let’s see: there’s Ku Klux Jesus hovering in the sky over

the triumphant Klansmen in D.W. Griffith’s Birth
of a Nation, but he was probably just having a bad day;
my Jesus doesn’t hate people. There’s Malibu Jesus,
aka blond and blue-eyed Jeffrey Hunter
in King of Kings, whereas a first-century Semite would have looked

like a present-day Palestinian, only smaller, topping out
at around 5’3” and weighing a trim 110 pounds, considering
that he walked everywhere; that’d be Shrimp Jesus,
but no disrespect, because his doctrines
are king-sized. Then there’s Buddy Jesus, the one Protestants like.

Protestants say Buddy Jesus walks with them and he talks
with them, but my Jesus wouldn’t put up with the off-key
singing and the cheesy lyrics. My Jesus
would be somebody who’d walk right by you
and you wouldn’t even notice him; he’d be going to the Titian show

at the Luxembourg museum or stopping to take a snapshot
of the kids sailing boats on the pond or stepping around back
to the orchard to catalog the apples
and pears with names like General LeClerc
and Prince Napoleon and Summer Rambo and Madame Ballet,

and he’d look just like anyone else, only more
Palestinian-y. My Jesus would be a poet, like the Joseph Brodsky who sat
in this same park and looked at this same statue
of Mary, Queen of Scots and wrote twenty sonnets
about her and of whom Professor Alexander Zholkovsky

has written, “Brodsky is a versatile poet, metaliterary almost
to a fault” and “pointedly intertextual” with his “jocular references
to Dante, Schiller, Pushkin, Gogol, Akhmatova, Russian
proverbs and popular songs, Mozart, Manet,
a 1940 Nazi movie about Mary Queen of Scots (Das Herz einer Koenigin,

with Zarah Leander), Parisian architecture, and so on.”
Now doesn’t that sound like what the French call
a delectable compagnon? Wouldn’t it be fun to take
a stroll through the garden with somebody like that
on a sunny day or even a rainy one or, best of all,

one that’s overcast and cool so you could walk along
with your hands behind your back and your overcoat
hanging off your shoulders like Jean-Paul Sartre
and Simone de Beauvoir, though without the infidelity
and bad dental work I know my Jesus would be

pointedly intertextual. And metaliterary too, though not
to a fault; how can you be too metaliterary? My Jesus
and I would walk all over the place,
past the statues of Baudelaire and Saint-Beuve,
past the ravens, big mothers the size of bulldogs, and stop at the apiary

to admire the bees. “I bet you had a lot of honey
over in Palestine,” I’d say, and Jesus would say, “Yeah,
we ate a lot of it over there” and then look into the distance
as though he were thinking about his mom and the apostles
and all the suffering he underwent. We’d walk some more

and stop to get a cotton candy, called barbe a papa
or “daddy’s beard” in French, and Jesus would mutter,
“This is not my father’s beard.” I think Jesus would be
a little mean to me, but that’s okay; God knows we were
plenty mean to him. When we pass a glade with a beautiful

grassy area where you could have a picnic, I say, “You can
imagine naked people at their ease there, like the lovers
in Le Dejeuner sur l’Herbe,” and Jesus says,
“You’re an animal, Dave,” and I say, “Of course
I’m an animal, Jesus, just like everybody else. We’ve all got the reptile

and early mammal brain, so there’s the crocodile
and the horse and then the rest of me. And it’s
David, not Dave. Aren’t you an animal, Jesus? The Gnostic gospels
say you kissed Mary Magdalene
on the mouth, and your disciples chided you for it. “I am that I am,”

says Jesus, and when we get to the tennis courts,
I ask him if he wants to play tennis, and he says,
“I don’t play tennis,” though I can’t tell whether
he has played and doesn’t like it or never learned
how to play and is embarrassed. Jesus says, “You don’t

take me seriously, Dave,” and I say, “I do, Jesus!
I want certainty! I want there to be another side,
and when it’s my time to go there, I want you to walk me over,
just as we’re walking through this garden today.”
By now it’s early afternoon, and the joggers are gone,

so we stop for a coffee at the little café just south
of the Medici Fountain and then get up and walk some more
and come to the bowling green,
and I suggest a game of bowls, and Jesus steps around
in front of me and stares at me so piercingly that for a moment

I think he’s going to headbutt me, and then he says,
“You ever see that Mary, Queen of Scots movie, Dave?”
And I say, “No, I haven’t, Jesus.”
and Jesus says, “I haven’t either, though I know
that during World War II, Swedish-born actress Zarah Leander became

the highest-paid star of Nazi cinema, upsetting
Josef Goebbels, who felt that the part should have been played by
a German actress. But if you’re going
for racial purity, what about a Scottish actress?
Wouldn’t that make more sense?” and I say, “It…it would, Jesus.

It really would,” and then I shrug and say, “Oh well,
German-Schmerman, Jesus,” and Jesus smiles
And says “German-Ethel Merman, Dave.
Did you know her real name was Ethel Zimmerman?
She was a Jew, like me,” and I say, “I don’t think there’s a whole lot

of Jews like you, Jesus,” and the au pairs who’ve brought
the little kids to the park for the pony rides and the puppet show
are rounding them up for the trip home,
and Jesus takes my arm in his and says,
“And Cary Grant was Archibald Leach.” “And Natalie Wood?” I say,

and Jesus says, “Hold on, that’s a tough one, it’s—
just a sec…Natalia Nikolaevna Zakharenko!” “So,
Russian?” I say, and the gendarme blows his whistle
because by now it’s sundown and the garden is closing.
“Yeah, Russian,” says Jesus, “like Brodsky.”

and the bigger kids are racing to get their boats back
to the rental stand, and the old duffers who have fallen asleep
on the benches wake with a start and put their newspapers
and ice cream wrappers in the trash bins
and start to shuffle toward the gates. “Brodsky’s sonnets don’t seem to have

all that much to do with Queen Mary, though,” I say,
and Jesus says, “Yeah, they’re more about
his fucked-up love life,” and I say, “You say ‘fuck’?”
and Jesus says “I say everything,”
and then he says “I love the movies,” and I say “But the movies weren’t

even invented until the nineteenth century,” and Jesus says,
“Look, when was American ‘invented’?” and he even makes
the little double hook signs in case I can’t
hear the quotation marks in his voice, and I say “1492?”
and he says, “And what, it didn’t exist before then?” and just then the door

of the Lxembourg Palace opens and someone steps out;
it is Edgar Allan Poe, and I say, “Is that Poe, Jesus?”
and Jesus says it is, and I say, “But isn’t he dead?”
and he says, “Nobody’s dead, David,”
and I say, “Is this…is this a movie, Jesus?” and Jesus says, “What isn’t?”

*I have typed this poem as WordPress allows, which does not show how the lines are arranged on the page in Kirby’s volume, and I was unable to find a copy of the poem online. Some of these lines are indented, starting with the first. If you like the poem, find a copy of the volume so you can see the more irregular-looking stanzas.

This poem is a lot like how conversations in my house are sounding these days, with additional questions and references to fictional characters, and without some of the certainty of Jesus’s answers.

Whatever holiday you celebrate, may it be merry and bright! 486932_4642339869576_1887215209_n

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. Joe Murphy permalink
    December 20, 2013 2:09 pm

    The poem reminds me of a line from Inherit the Wind: “God created man in His own image, and man, being a gentleman, returned the favor.”

    And a very merry season to you and yours!

    • December 21, 2013 8:57 am

      Good manners are especially important when living with adult children…

  2. December 20, 2013 2:25 pm

    Merry Christmas! It sounds like you are already having a wonderful time!

    • December 21, 2013 8:59 am

      We are! We’re getting ready for houseguests and traveling to see grandparents and all the traditional stuff.

  3. December 23, 2013 10:01 am

    Love the poem. Merry Christmas, Jeanne!!!

  4. December 24, 2013 4:23 pm

    I enjoyed this. Merry Christmas!

  5. December 26, 2013 11:02 am

    Merry Christmas to you and your family! Isn’t it lovely to have them home? We are enjoying our visit very much. And the poem is most intriguing and very, very chatty. I must find the indented version because I can see it would add to it (isn’t wordpress annoying in the way that you can’t indent? Grrrrr). I’m intrigued and slightly overwhelmed by the verbosity of that poem, how very much it wants to say, how it talks the reader into submission. Not in a bad way, just like you’ve met someone who’s drunk too much coffee and been alone for too long!

    • January 2, 2014 8:52 am

      Yes, I do like the way one feels overwhelmed by that poem; other poems in the volume have some of that same feel–that you’ve met someone who’s drunk too much coffee and been alone for too long–because of the long lines, but this one does seem slightly more manic than is usual.

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