Sunday, April 25, 2010

the reverend





They say the Rev. Gillam was never without
his backward collar and walking stick.

Every morning, he clicked about,
touching the silver tip
to the rim of his stove-top hat,
blessing parishioners
as they passed.

He was slick as snake oil,
raised his scepter in celebration
of womb and soil, sprayed holy water
on unsuspecting tots
like a great sperm whale.

Sundays always burned like hell.
Eyes like angry marbles in his face,
his prayers of sulphur filled the place;
never lukewarm, always hot.

But when a coffin came to rest,
damning stick turned modest crutch,
and eased the common crush of death,
since even Jesus wept.





willow, 2010



for more Magpie Tales participants, click HERE.

64 comments:

  1. Slick as snake oil is the line that stands out to me most. Sounds familiar. I like the angry marbles for eyes too. I am enjoying reading different post with this same picture all with a different story.

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  2. TechnoBabe, this walking stick actually belonged to the Rev. Nelson Gillam, in my family tree.

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  3. You capture well how the reverend can evoke such mixed feelings from his flock.

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  4. I liked this. I remember coffins set down in parlors. People weeping. Black wreaths on front doors. I never heard a preacher at a funeral that I liked.

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  5. This is marvellous, I can just see Rev. Gillam, I can hear his passionate sermons, a wonderful read.

    I'm new to your blog and I love it, looking forward to reading future posts.

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  6. Another heirloom as a writing prompt! Great idea, Willow!

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  7. Fascinating pastor! Neat poem, Willow!

    Harvee
    <a href="http://harvee.wordpress.com/2010/04/25/magpie-tales-11-cane>Thisandthat</a>

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  8. Thanks from
    www.getawaysincalifornia.blogspot.com

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  9. Dear Willow: The Reverend Gillam reminds me of The Wizard of Oz actor; Frank Morgan. I wonder which actor could play his part. Is he the same Rev Gillam the Methodist minister found in "The Papers of Ulysses S. Grant"?(I saved the URL) putting "The Fear" into the congregation was necessary back then. Yet he could, at times be like Jesus when needed; compassionate I love the line;

    damning stick turned modest crutch,
    From an object of damnation to an object with miraculous healing powers like Moses' rod. This man had talent to spare! Great versus makes me want to learn more about this amazing gentleman!

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  10. hey willow - sweet fine writing! i had a grandfather like this man - he was a really unhappy and grumpy person. but not slick - nope! sweet evening at the manor. steven

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  11. Beware the snake oil on a reverend's clothing!

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  12. i grew up under the fire and the marbles...nice one willow. my mag will be up tomorrow.

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  13. Ah, Brian, me, too. I know the fire and marbles well.

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  14. Damn, Willow. I'm speechless. Kudos!

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  15. It's kinda sad, that after over 50 years of service, all my reverend uncle has to look forward to is a small room with nothing in it but a cot and a chair. But, well, that's what he signed up for.

    And at least he has a place to go to, right?

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  16. That's lovely, Willow, and fascinating. Writing poems about your ancestors seems a fine way to get to know them, to bring those sepia photos to life.

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  17. You are building on your treasure trove of family memories, adding to and keeping them alive for future generations!

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  18. I loved reading this. It almost feels vintage--that is to say it is reminiscent of one of my grandpa's stories... I liked how the lines were "jumpy."

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  19. 'Prayers of sulphur' reminds me of my catholic scool days and the Monsigneur and his incense. Clanking and calling as he suffocated us with his pungent fumes.
    Nice soft touch at the last Willow.

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  20. There is always something a little scary about a Reverend like this one. You never quite know which 'devil' they are in league with.
    Blessings, Star

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  21. Hello Willow,

    Clothes maketh the man - and accessories too!

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  22. I loved your word selection - especially when I said it out aloud.

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  23. A very engaging portrait of the man. From sceptre to crutch..

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  24. Lovely piece, Willow! Nothing scarier than someone who believes he's God's mouthpiece.

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  25. Sounds like some old reverends in my conservative past. Today I have a different view of a reverend.

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  26. A marvelous character driven poem, Willow. Very strong.

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  27. As with so many of your poems, it has the ability to stop you in your tracks, make you forget whatever you were intending to do next and settle down and read it again.
    ...... and again.

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  28. Such clever characterisation, I could see him touching his hat with the silver end of the stick.

    Christine

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  29. Such clever characterisation, I could see him touching his hat with the silver end of the stick.

    Christine

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  30. He used his wand well. May he rest in peace.

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  31. There is something about this that reminds me slightly of that old Beatles tune "Eleanor Rigby".

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  32. Sprayed holy water like a sperm whale?? What an image. Enjoyed your poem. You do have a way with the words.

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  33. "raised his scepter in celebration
    of womb and soil" is the line that got me. Nice tango.

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  34. 'Sundays always burned like hell'
    ... very evocative, powerful line.

    I recognise this man in some of the priests of my childhood. The way you use his walking stick metaphorically and literally is wonderful.

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  35. Stewart, yeah, I see what you mean. It does kinda have a dark Eleanor Rigby-ish thing going on!

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  36. I've only experienced a reverend such as yours in movies or books but you captured the character is just a few short lines...wonderful!

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  37. I'm seeing a bit of Elmer Gantry in this poem.

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  38. "sprayed holy water on unsuspecting tots" this gave me a chuckle in the midst of the portrait of fire and brimstone Rev. Gillam Not that it is really funny to spray the poor kids, more the image coming up for you. a very Catholic image as they do sprinkle holy water here and there and in fact i always liked that thought of water being holy.

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  39. Love the lines "Eyes like angry marbles in his face,
    prayers of sulphur filled the place;.."

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  40. I really enjoyed this description of a minister Willow and that frisson of gentle fear and kinship they always arouse in me...especially my local minister the Rev. Andy.

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  41. Splendid use of form/rhyme that expresses the character of this subject. The great sperm whale image is brilliant!

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  42. Well done, Willow. I remember a lot of fire and brimstone Catholic high mass sermons that had me quivering in my boots as a kid. He sounds like he was a character! Beautiful walking stick there!

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  43. Beautiful--the internal rhymes & the slant rhymes are handled so well!

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  44. wow! this was breathtaking!! made me thank God i had never gone to rev. g's ;) the night/day transformation was awesome, willow...a fine magpie, for sure!

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  45. skillfully crafted,
    I am still cooking mine!

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  46. Whoa. Very powerful, Willow. You certainly stir my pot of emotions with this prose. I have known pastors of this bent but also have been blessed by genuine souls. I'm looking forward to your poetry collection book when you publish, as of course you must.

    I've been family tree-ing again myself.

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  47. I like the way you start the poem with "They say" Sets it all up as hearsay....and family lore...wonderful..giving way to how a family chooses to remember or honor...Beautifully written with vivid images and sound
    I liked the last line...Jesus wept....I think the Rev would be happy to have himself compared to the Lord.....great ending
    such a family you come from lucky you

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  48. I remember men like this from childhood before I slipped away on the wake of snake oil. Wonderful words and characterization.

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  49. Now you made me think of my grandmother! One of the walking sticks I keep is so similar to this one...

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  50. I love this!

    Our regular preacher liked to yell, but he wasn't really scary - just old & annoyed. But we had some guest preachers like this guy. They would get red in the face & exhale, "Huh!" between each phrase. Scared me to death!

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  51. Willow, what a character you've created! This especially is just marvellous:

    He was slick as snake oil,
    raised his scepter in celebration
    of womb and soil, sprayed holy water
    on unsuspecting tots
    like a great sperm whale.

    All these elements of a man in one short poem.

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  52. Willow

    This is a wonderful depiction of America -- up there with Normal Rockwell. This poem constitutes a truly immeasurable contribution to American Poetry and Art form.
    When is your book of poetry coming, Pray Tell? It will be filled with childhood tales -- the little Red Wagon ( my favorite) to fire and brimstone and everything in between. Love the use of words for descriptives -- snake oil --great sperm whale-- angry marbles.
    This is your muse.
    Joanny

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  53. Thanks, Joanny. I'm working on the chapbook manuscript right now. Your comment made my day.

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  54. http://jingleyanqiu.wordpress.com/2010/04/27/magpie-tale-the-magical-wish/

    mine is up,
    thank you for the time!

    Happy Tuesday!

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  55. Willow,
    I always marvel at your sense of rhythm in your poetry. Smooth flow and totally understandable; my kind of poetry. One might say your poetry is "never lukewarm, always hot."
    rel

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  57. Great work Willow. Lots of substance here, lots to mull over... I do not pursue my spirituality via an organized vehicle, so my familiarity with preachers ended long ago -- but I certainly do recognize one in your poem...

    ...rob

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  58. reminds me a bit of Elmer Gantry--as always, you knocked it right out of the park! kudos!

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  59. Nice poem to the Rev. Gillam...
    :) The Bach

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  60. Your 'reverend' came to life for me! Thoroughly enjoyable ... thank you for hosting Magpie Tales!

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  61. wonderful poem, willow.

    You know i have heard some hellfire sermons before but must be twisted, as even as a kid I never bothrred me. It was the do think anything ones that quirked me the most. Could never figure out why I even bothered then. LOL.

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Inject a few raisins of conversation into the tasteless dough of existence.
― O. Henry (and me)