Orphan poems (13)

This was a wild idea which I didn’t have the conviction to push through, although I still think it might be a good one to revisit, when my style has settled down still further. The idea was to write a loose version of each of the biblical psalms. No-one’s done it, I don’t think, and it might be a headline-grabbing stunt (thus speaks my inner publicist), but there again, no-one would buy them, it would be a lot of work, and who am I kidding, would they really think the idea was worth pursuing (thus speaks my inner defeatist)?

I’ve included both the King James versions, so that you can see what I’m doing.

Psalm 1

1: Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.
2: But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.
3: And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.
4: The ungodly are not so: but are like the chaff which the wind driveth away.
5: Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous.
6: For the LORD knoweth the way of the righteous: but the way of the ungodly shall perish.

Psalm 1

Water soothes the root,
slakes its bustling tongue,
troubles the earth with
fuss and gusto.

On the bank, reading his balance,
the slow owner counts his blessings
as skilful sums, watching the loops
and skirls of his ledger

turn into whoops, which he bottles.
In another field,
where it is perishing,
the sinner winnows the chaff,

and thinks it is
possible to package it
as snacks.

Psalm 2

1: Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing?
2: The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD, and against his anointed, saying,
3: Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us.
4: He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision.
5: Then shall he speak unto them in his wrath, and vex them in his sore displeasure.
6: Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion.
7: I will declare the decree: the LORD hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee.
8: Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession.
9: Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.
10: Be wise now therefore, O ye kings: be instructed, ye judges of the earth.
11: Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling.
12: Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him.

Psalm 2

This will make you laugh
like a blacksmith’s flint,
when the hammer smacks
the nervous surface of his anvil.

You will tremble
like a smithereen, and the potter,
sorting his seconds,
his face all crackle and eyes
will beat you up like biscuit.

This is how to dismantle a man:
take him apart
with pincers. Rip away
his rage, and sunder his smiles. Call him heathen,
let him breathe uneasily.

Do not cross my artisan heart
without having a word to the wise:
you will be dusted down
like a prizefighter’s knuckles.


You can hear the poems here:


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