The Next Religion
by Peter Tomassi
She was a very old goddess, had long
skipped their sacrifices, had seen
too many thorns and bonfires,
& slept through a millennium's dirges.
So she went among them,
took to riding the subway all night
as a kind of worship,
head covered over in high testimony.
She became the hard plastics
upon which they depended, became
the lowly smells (inside their smells),
played and loved in them, in their bright colored cottons,
making herself up like an idol—
learned to play golf, listened
to the radio,
sweated in nightclubs, read at the Laundromat.
& as she hovered like air
above and below,
she began to divine the ordinary
cold thunderless rain, the rusted hands
of the bus driver, the blistering metal gutters
strung from houses she squatted in.
She wore her divinity
like a ripped flannel shirt,
no human could recognize her, and
no god would have cared to.
Even the stray mutts
let her walk herself home
where, weeping at night to the television,
she knows she is loved, again;
a thing of the devout,
only their pieces.
Peter Tomassi's work has appeared in numerous publications in the United States and abroad, including Beauty for Ashes Poetry Review, The Cafe Review, Central California Poetry Journal, The Comstock Review, Magma (London), Lynx Eye, Newark Review, Paris/Atlantic (France), The Pittsburgh Quarterly, PoetryMagazine.com, and Porcupine Literary Arts Magazine. His debut book of poetry, Mixing Cement, was recently published by Thunder Rain. Mr. Tomassi lives in New York.
As far as background on the poem, it was a bit of a philosophical indulgence and a departure for me from the image-oriented work I've been doing of late. On a social commentary level it is a reaction to the "new religion" that has sprung up over the last 10 years or so, very common among our age cohort which says anyone can construct their own religion—it's called spirituality, and it's not dependent on a rigid system of rights and wrongs, sins and sacraments. What if the leader of a religion, or better yet its deity, decided that she would construct her own system of spirituality, following the example of her own followers?
The subject of the poem has thus shrugged off her own faith for that of the quotidian. As it turns out, however, she does not find the substance she is looking for in the everyday, either.