Throw Off Your Saints and Come Ride With Me
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Billy Graham Elegy
Nobody much mentions the floor of the Sistine Chapel
that’s touched so many more than the docents or the ceiling
or the premonitions on the wall. Come papal loafer
and heathen sneaker, come Ked and Ecco mingling dog
shit off the viale e strada on this scuffed stone nobody
mentions much while the tourist kids keep calling it
the Sixteen Chapel as if it’s one middling outlet
in a protracted franchise, which it must be, which must be
why the Lord doesn’t appear here much more than elsewhere,
retired as he must be to Ostia as is custom among Romans,
and after all one can’t be messiah forever. Eventually,
the ball club needs a fresh message, a fresher messenger,
a fella in a silk suit maybe, maybe a Carolina drawl,
another mother appointed Head of the Pietà,
but I don’t think much of home among the Alfa
Romeos of the military police here where I’m unafraid
anyone will shoot me, and Rome feels comprehensible
for once, I know how to say, Vorrei due coronetti,
or, Mia moglie é incinta, or, Dove il Bancomat?
Ho troppo moneta for once in my life so the cab drivers
of evening say, Your Italian is so good, where are you from?
but the cab drivers of morning say, Your Italian is so bad,
di dove sei? and I don’t tell either I’m from the outcome,
a new world and last result, that all this artistry ends
in half a nation mourning a holy mogul in a circus tent,
and mercifully nobody there comes back from the dead.
On a sunny day, you understand why people say, “If Heaven isn’t what it’s cracked up to be, send me back to Gimmelwald.”
— Rick Steves, “Switzerland’s Jungfrau Region: Best of the Alps,” Rick Steves’ Europe
Send me back, Heaven, send me back
to alphorn, wiener, unknowing,
and schnitzel. Send me back
to dopplebock, uncertainty,
the mountains, and the Mountain
Hostel. I miss the rumpled earth.
I miss the 90s. Send me back,
send me back to Gimmelwald,
to my pack and flask, my abandon,
map, and Eurail pass, to sweating
the too little left in my earthly
accounts and the sky blue
box of Camels I smoked
unrepentant on a sunny day
awaiting a train to Interlaken
to Prague to a profound lust
or a petty love maybe and flaming
absinthes in the lung-cut
of Slavic winter. Un-punch
my loyalty card and, Heaven,
release me from the quid pro quo
of devotion, my humility exchanged
for your cache of dead pets and relatives
chitchatting at an unrelenting buffet,
my chastity for your answer key,
and expel me into the dizzy of morning,
1999, the fidget of waiting for a train,
what wonders in the goddamned
Gimmelwald of my good brain.
About the Author
Jaswinder Bolina’s new collection of poems The 44th of July is forthcoming from Omnidawn on April 1, 2019. He is author of two previous books, Phantom Camera (2013) and Carrier Wave (2007), and of the digital chapbook The Tallest Building in America (2014). He teaches on the faculty of the MFA Program in Creative Writing at the University of Miami.
“Billy Graham Elegy” and “Station” are published here by permission of the author, Jaswinder Bolina. Copyright © Jaswinder Bolina 2018. All rights reserved.