Three pieces from Jesus, Gandhi and Hitler walk into a Poem
Jesus, Gandhi and Hitler walk into a Poem –
Famous People Turning Up in Weird Places
WHAT IF… Frank Sinatra was a heart surgeon? WHAT IF… The Queen Mother was your conscience? WHAT IF… Hitler wanted to catch up for a coffee… at a Children’s farm? WHAT IF… Shakespeare shopped at Woolworths? WHAT IF… Muhammad Ali was the moon? WHAT IF… Jesus just really wanted to fish for fish? --- Cameron Semmens asked himself these questions (and many more) and this book is the weird, playful, thoughtful, joyful result. Welcome into the surprising celebrity cameos and the refreshingly charming scenarios of Jesus, Gandhi and Hitler walk into a Poem!
Published by Crooked Nose Wisdom, Dec 2014.
Hitler Visits The Collingwood Children’s Farm
He’s nicer than you might think. Humbler. Perhaps suicide has mellowed him.
On the way to the farm we mostly chat about dogs. He loves dogs. I like dogs, but I don’t love them, so our conversation stumbles early.
His English is good. He’s grown out his moustache. His hair is un-parted and little wild, so he isn’t immediately recognisable. But given a second glance most people would still pick him.
Once inside the farm gate, the setting gives us a whole menagerie to talk about…
“Look at this turkey gobble!”
“That’s a big goat isn’t it.”
“Do you want to hang around for the guinea pig patting?”
A goose waddles in front of us. I see a chance for a shared joke. Pointing, I say,
“When geese march, do they do the human step?”
I keep my eyebrows high. Hitler’s eyebrows don’t move at all.
Later, while watching the cow getting milked I hear him quietly talking under his breath,
“Eva, Eva, why have you…” or “…where are you…”
I can’t quite make it out, so I ignore it. A goat nibbles on the hem of his suit jacket. I shoo it away.
Then Hitler turns to me, opens his mouth to speak, hesitates... looks down, and finally, in a near whisper, says,
“Will you help me?”
And I say, “With what?”
“I want to be an artist.”
“I know you’ve been running water-colour workshops and…”
“Hitler.” I interrupt, “You’re Hitler. You’re one of the most hated men in history. No-one’s going to buy your stupid landscape paintings.”
He looks a little hurt. I don’t mind hurting him a little. But the hang-dog look on his face does bring down my blood-pressure, enough to think more clearly.
“Actually…” I say, “it’s probably… well, people would probably love your stuff. They’d probably go crazy for it. For whatever you did. But they’d never appreciate your art for art’s sake. For its splendour, or its capacity to evoke. It would only ever be bought and sought because of your notoriety. As an oddity. As a macabre joke. Is that what you want?”
Hitler is staring at a sparrow stealing away the chicken feed.
“Is that what you want?” I repeat, more forcibly.
“Nein.” he replies, “Nein.”
We shuffle past the pigs; the sleepy donkey; the shaggy pony standing in sawdust. We end up at the Organic Café for vegie burgers and wheat-grass smoothies.
He picks up a downy feather tumbling past our table.
“But there is such beauty…” He releases it to the breeze,
“… I see it everywhere.”
“Look man, things have changed since 1945.”
“So have I.” he says, a little weakly.
Just at that moment the hipster waitress comes over to our table. She has a tattoo on her forearm. A star, six-pointed. Hitler says, “Juden!” and reaches for her hand. She’s a little taken back, but doesn’t pull away. He rotates her arm gently until the tattoo faces straight up. He points to it, “A prison camp?”
“No, no…” she stutters, “I got it done on… on Brunswick St, it just looked cool, ya know? Do you… um… want to start with a coffee? And you can check out our full interactive menu on your iPad, or tablet… through wifi… ya know?”
Hitler’s confused. This isn’t his time. It isn’t his place. He knows then, he can’t stay.
I put my hand on his shoulder and say in a soft voice,
“People will never be able to receive beauty from you. They just need you to be evil; to be the focus of all their hate and blame and shame. Be that. You’re good at that. It’s what you can offer humanity.”
“…good at that.” he quietly repeats.
Then he nods, stands, stiffens, salutes, clicks the heels of his jack-boots, and he’s gone… for good.
Jesus and I Go Fishing
Jesus and I go fishing
and I have to say
he isn’t reeling them in
like he does when he speaks.
After sitting there for
at least an hour,
“Jesus, I’ve got a thought.
Why don’t you just command the water?
Make it settle into quiet furrowed fields
and then walk across
and pick out the fish like turnips?
He just stares at the dimple
in the smooth surface of the river
where his fishing line enters.
And with a little smile,
shakes his head.
“Or why not turn the water
Get the fish drunk,
so they just bob to the surface
Or you could go old-school –
divide the waters like Moses
and simply wander along
the sediment seafood aisle.
Or commandeer a whale
to swallow a whole school
and spit them out
after three days of curing.
Jesus turns to face me,
points his index finger at me,
then pokes me in the forehead.
“Don’t you know me at all?” he says.
“Well I thought I...
I dunno...” I say.
Jesus draws a deep breath,
gives a few gentle tugs on the rod
“If you get something right
in the first place,
there’s no need for a miracle.”
Should I write that one down?
That’s a good line.”
“No, let’s just keep fishing.
And stop talking,
you’re scaring the fish away.”
Heavy Heart and The Freedom Found in Frank
I arrive at Desert Springs Medical Centre with chronic chest pain.
“Your name, sir? Your address?”
I blink. My mind a blank. Who am I? Where’s my home?
A nurse jabs a needle into my arm. It easily pierces my thin cardboard skin. I can hear polystyrene flesh squeak beneath.
Under a tilted fedora the doctor has quiet words with the nurses. All I hear is “…immediate surgery… ”
With Stanley knives they slice down the packing tape over my sternum and pull aside the two folds of pectoral cardboard. They carefully cut through my polystyrene muscles and snip their way through the bubble wrap. I hear the odd muffled – pop – as they draw near to my aching heart.
I want to ask them if everything’s going alright, but in the rush to operate someone sticks a label over my mouth. So the only words on the tip of my tongue are John Doe, Address Unknown.
Suddenly, the doctor pauses, pulls down his surgical mask, tucks it under his chin and looks me straight in the eye. It’s Frank Sinatra.
My eyes must be showing the shock, because he says,
“Yes, I’m Frank Sinatra, and I’m here because I’m an expert on issues of the heart.”
I give a little nod, hardly believing. He goes on:
“You’re all boxed in buddy. You’ve got a serious heart condition called multi-atrium petrification. More commonly known as heavy heart. Your central organ of emotion has hardened through repeated exposure to You can’t! You won’t! You never will! For treatment I’m going to directly expose your petrified muscle to a medicinal cocktail of melody, lyric and big band riffs.”
Suddenly, in my periphery, I see a full big band shuffling into the operating room. Frank grabs a mic, and with a drumstick count-in the band starts up.
The music swells, Frank winks, and the muso-therapy begins.
It’s a medley. He kicks it off with:
Come fly with me,
come fly, let’s fly away…
Once I get you up there
where the air is rarified
We’ll just glide,
Immediately I feel my heart begin to soften, lighten. Frank croons on ’til the music slides into a new tempo and he glides into –
I’ve got you under my skin…
All the nursing staff applaud. For the final chorus, he switches the words, just for me, singing:
You’ve got me under your skin…
Everyone laughs, as he points to me.
You’ve got me deep in the heart of you.
So deep in your heart
that I’m really a part of you…
I can feel Frank’s melodic fingers massaging the atriums and ventricles of my soul back to life. I feel a lightening; a weight being lifted from deep within.
My bubble-wrap bubbles seem to fill with helium. I am lifted off the table through the rafters into the corridor above. There’s a brass section crescendo that lifts me even higher. Sweeping up through many floors ’til I glide straight through the double-glazed domed roof and into the warm violet sky… I can nearly hear angels cheer.
Finally, I come to rest, cushioned on passing cumulo-nimbus. And more quickly than I’d have thought my cardboard skin becomes soggy with cloud dew and all my packaging begins to swell and tear and fall away until I am nothing but a wispy sense of self.
Here, well above the glass ceilings – living outside the box – I still feel the pain, but it’s lost its power, and fear is more like fabric, not so much under my skin, as over.
And echoing far below I hear a distant chorus…
I did it myyyyyyy way!