Tag Archives: martyrs

Kris Kristofferson

Light up another cigarette, crack open one more beer
Let’s drink to those who lived and ended up with a career
Who suffered the indignity of having their gold panned
Who didn’t end up dying quite as young as they had planned

Light up another cigarette, and pour out one more round
Let’s drink to those whose wasted years are not yet underground
Who suffered the injustice of not suffering enough
Who didn’t end up dying to send their record sales up

Can you still be a martyr to a cause that no one knows,
a prophet in your own home town, a sheep dressed in wolves’ clothes,
if they all know you struggled, but still managed to survive
playing double sets in some old, empty dives?

Light up another cigarette, line up another shot
Let’s drink to those poor devils that the critics have forgot
Who didn’t spend their short, sweet lives in angst-inducing pain
Who stayed on at the grindstone and instead lived on in vain.

Light up another cigarette, tap that last pony keg
Let’s drink to those who carried on, and had to learn to beg
Who suffered in the shadows, while some comets came and went
Who paid the tab when others left, their money still unspent.

Can you still be a martyr in obscurity, unknown,
if your splash isn’t big enough, if your death cult hasn’t grown,
if they see you still living, and assume you haven’t cried
as much as those brave legends who all died?

Light up another cigarette, and fill up one more glass
Let’s drink to those whose lives are more than a grand epitaph
Who pay the price for living by pretending not to die
Who write the songs we all sing when the caskets roll on by.

27 NOV 2005

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What Happens If

What happens if, as a martyr in training,
you learn self-abandonment, lose fear of death,
imagine your sacrifice each waking moment,
practice your from-the-flames speech in the mirror,
give not a thought to your present or future,
trust that your cause will provide and protect you,
turn away mere earthly love and companions,
scorn little day-to-day dreams as unworthy,
then find the required persecution won’t come?

What happens if, as a rebel in waiting,
you learn discipline, self-denial and hate,
imagine your enemies each waking moment,
practice your from-the-front-lines stance for hours,
give not a thought to your present or future,
trust that your cause will provide and protect you,
turn away mere earthly love and companions,
scorn little day-to-day dreams as unworthy,
then find your great revolution won’t come?

29 JUL 2005

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Hypocritical Mass

Yes, I have been a hypocrite:
talked a good game, but never played;
and facing challenge, I have quit
the field and left teammates dismayed.

I’ve shouted sermons down the street
on practices I’d never tried
and often, told new folks I’d meet
colorful tales, most of them lies.

On politics, on love, on war
I’ve claimed my way the higher road,
poured salt in wounds I knew were sore
to prove some tenet of my code.

I’ve eschewed meat, when it was scarce,
naming some holy cause;
and when my vegan friends went home
found some steak bones to gnaw.

The pious route, the pilgrim’s path?
I’ve seen it from afar.
When people stumbled, I have laughed,
and drove off in my car.

What talents given me, I’ve wasted,
just to watch them spoil;
and criticized what I’d not tasted
just to play the foil.

Yes, I have done my part to serve
some causes rather lame;
and later claimed not to deserve
my fair share of the blame.

Yet, through all this, I’ve never lied;
when asked, I’ll say, “inhaled”,
and honestly, each thing I’ve tried
to fudge about, I’ve failed.

I’m no great angel, I’ll admit,
but have learned from my flaws;
and not been such a hypocrite
to think there should be laws

so everyone would act and live
the same way that I do;
to fight such thinking I would give
my life. How about you?

The hypocrite and martyr die
in differing degrees:
one in an instant, on their feet;
one lingers, on their knees.

08 JUN 2005

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A Meditation on St. Sebastian

What is the secret
hidden behind
the veiled innuendo
that hangs
its tapestries
of heavy corded cloth
on these rotting temple walls?

I pierce your flesh with countless
arrows, yet you fail to die;
beheaded, in a pool of cloying blood
your gore-stained neck still
spouts a sermon.

Your skin reeking of the sweet
heavy sweat of gasoline, that hangs
like night jasmine in the humid air
is a reproach; and the raw furrows
there along your back
sing out a louder song than the
hiss and crack of the bullwhip
whose overture is now at end.

Shall I proceed to light the anointing oil
that to your neck you are immersed?
Will turning past their breaking point
the screws against your thumbs
release your hands
from this grasping hold on my neck?

I have burnt away your tongue
with live, red-hot coals;
Will your drawn and quartered limbs,
under the patient care of
some sister-wife,
be sewn to whole in some dark,
fetid swamp?

Look, the lions will not even
deign to touch your ruined
flesh — it reeks of waste,
of offal, some perfume
that burns the roughest tongue.

What would you live to prove,
that in your dying cause

Give me no more martyrs;
for the aroma of seared flesh
does not provide a savor
to my senses.

29 MAY 2004

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Martyr Without a Cause

Waken, would-be martyrs seeking causes
to in an instant devote life and limb, and cling
half-drowned along the upturned raft of culture
that leaking, seeks the bottom of the quay.

The words that might be spoken now are silenced;
upon the stump the bloody axe rests, still
slick from the cloying jugular wine that pools
beneath the severed head there in the bowl.

A brotherhood of fools will find its equal
among the rushes, bent with each new wind
and whispering inanities and slogans
that pampleteers shed like oak leaves each fall.

What would you say aloud to fire this army
of malcontents who look to their own skins?
Beyond the content of their bellies, do they seem to care
for rhetoric that asks after their minds?

And those self-sacrificers dream redemption songs
that for a moment, find a tuneful ear
and are transformed beyond a pale chimera
that floats upon the stale, dry air, then fades.

Is there a cause worth half this senseless slaughter?
Behind the scenes, the tribal elders watch
and pick out young recruits that seem more likely
to run in panic; these make the best bullies.

What do the gods require from each new generation?
Are not the first-fruits destined for their hands?
To pose elsewise is suicide, beyond the help of prayer;
besides, a death unscheduled can’t be used.

The rebel tools that stock the workshops of the status quo
serve best if left to rust, their edges dulled.
What good is there in martyrdom to others’ causes
unless you’ve nothing worthwhile back at home?

Curse you to your own self-made hells, you preachers
who safe behind your pulpits can commit
your congregation, knowing they are malleable,
their self-will sapped to serve some future realm.

And those who in their natures, find the substance
of service, but are lacking steady work —
be sure the cause you choose is your own making
and not the sad agenda of the damned.

24 MAY 2004

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A conversation I had earlier brought this thought to my mind.

I am, as one who seeks to find the commonalities in things, constantly drawn to comparative religion. My view of the varying religions of humanity, their supposed differences and the lines so vehemently drawn between them is much like the Sufi who observes that each blind man, although undoubtedly wise, has only his own hand-span of elephant by which to describe the elephant as a whole. In a different metaphor, that I used this evening to describe the limitations of man-imposed impressions of an omnipotent, omnipresent God, the divine is like the ocean, and each religion is a bucket of seawater standing on a different part of the shoreline, claiming that they have the nature of the entire sea in their tiny, limited bucket — when all they really have is the taste of salt-water — and that everyone else’s bucket cannot possibly have the essence of the sea within it. The person to whom I relayed this metaphor said, well, that’s not what my Bible says. And that brought me to another metaphor entirely. For the sake of this metaphor, I will use the word God (which, as George Bernard Shaw pointed out, is the most deceptive word in the English language, for it appears to refer to something that can be defined), but I really mean the underlying energy current that I feel enlivens, informs and embodies the universe. An earlier trip to Barnes & Noble, where I noticed the organization of books into various discrete sections — Religion, Eastern Religion, New Age, Occult, Mythology and Folklore, etc., also fueled the creation of this metaphor.

God is more than the Bible. God is more than the Koran. God is more than the Vedas. God is more than the Dhammapada. God is more than the Talmud, Torah, Kabbalah, Book of Mormon, Upanishads, Popul Vuh, Book of the Dead, Book of Common Prayer, Old Testament, New Testament, Apocrypha and Pseudo-Gospels combined.

God is more than Paul TIllich, Max Lucado, Billy Graham, Dr. Gene Scott, Pat Robertson, Ravi Zacharias, Charles Colson, Robert Schuller and Norman Vincent Peale.
God is more than John Bunyan, Thomas a Kempis, Augustine of Hippo, Francis of Assisi, Teresa of Avila, John Chrysentom, Thomas Aquinas, Hildegard von Bingen and Ignatius Loyola.
God is more than Trungpa Rinpoche, the Dalai Lama, Krishnamurti, the Marharishi, D.T. Suzuki, Alan Watts, Idries Shah, Rumi and Ram Dass.
God is more than Silver Ravenwolf, Isaac Bonewits, Ray Buckland, Aleister Crowley, A.E. Waite, MacGregor Mathers, Joseph Smith, Doreen Valiente and Sybil Leek.

That all these books fit onto a single shelf, no more than 20 feet long, says it all. The fact is that God, if it is really GOD, is more than just a bookshelf of “religious books”.

God is the whole library. There can be no measure of knowledge outside the divine realm.

God is the Marquis de Sade, Henry Miller, Henry Rollins, Xavier Hollander, Kurt Vonnegut, Rush Limbaugh, Charles Dickens, J.D. Salinger, James Joyce and even Robert Anton Wilson, too.

God is the Joy of Cooking, the Joy of Sex, Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television, Brave New World, Full Frontal Snogging, The Pickwick Papers, News from Lake Wobegon, Don Quixote, Howl, Moby Dick, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Black Like Me, Mein Kampf, To Kill a Mockingbird, Notes from the Underground, Dead Souls, Doctor Zhivago, A Death in Venice, Steppenwolf and The Snows of Kilimanjaro, too.

Who cares what your book says? Look around. There is not more to Heaven and Earth than is dreamt of, only than what is written down (and as Henry Miller said, how transformed, gutted and utterly emasculated is the word when translated from the mind to the paper), in your philosophy.

Ask the trees. They are the real martyrs of ALL religions — because they died to give you your narrow-minded viewpoint in print.

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