Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Japheth, The Rabbi, and the Whisky Priest

 —Public Domain Photo Courtesy of Medusa 
 * * * 
 —Poetry by Joshua C. Frank
—Public Domain Photos Courtesy
of Joshua C. Frank and Medusa

Based on a true story from the 1995 talk, “Men and Marriage”, by Rabbi Daniel Lapin

A rabbi in an airplane row
Sat by a famous Communist
And two young men who seemed to know
The rabbi’s needs, the foods he missed.

His feet swelled up like sausage links,
So they replaced his shoes with slippers.
They gave him sandwiches and drinks,
The envy of the other trippers.

The Communist, observing this,
Said, “Rabbi, I am quite impressed:
In no way are your sons remiss—
They give to you their very best!”

“My sons?”  The rabbi shook his head.
“It’s my disciples you just saw,
But if my sons were here instead,
You’d really look at them in awe!”

The Communist sat there and wept.
“I have four sons, ungrateful bunch!
My teachings, none of them have kept,
And they would never make me lunch!”

The rabbi said, “They heed your words,
They keep your ways.  You can’t escape
What all their lives from you they heard:
Their father’s one step more an ape!

“Just as a horse obeys a man,
All lower life-forms must respect
A higher one, so by your plan,
Such thinking’s what their acts reflect.
“I’ve taught my sons about creation;
I’ve taught them through God’s Holy Word:
One step toward Adam’s generation
Is one step closer to the Lord!”

The Communist just turned away;
He said no more and gave no nod.
Our tale ends here, but still I pray
He may have later turned to God.

(First published in The Society of Classical Poets)
 —Public Domain Photo Courtesy of Medusa


Japheth (JAY-feth): Noah’s son, ancestor of Europeans and other northern peoples who domesticated dogs

Some decades after Noah’s Flood,
Some wolves smelled boiling beef and blood
Over fire in Japheth’s hearth.
The wolves slinked by around his garth,
Sitting patiently for meat—
A novelty: a well-cooked treat.

The children called the wolves by whistle,
Tossed them dirty guts and gristle.
Japheth’s wife threw boiled bones,
No good for humans, hard as stones,
Out the windows, on the grass,
Devoured by the lupine mass.

When the wolves kept coming back
For a new, delicious snack,
Sitting down beside the shrubs,
Japheth took their sweetest cubs,
Gave his children these as pets,
And kept the best as breeding sets.

Today, across the great, wide waters,
A lot of Japheth’s distant daughters,
Taught to be career-ambitious,
Vent suppressed maternal wishes
Through wolves’ descendants’ shame and dolors
By pushing them in human strollers.

(First published in The Society of Classical Poets)

—Public Domain Photo Courtesy of Joshua C. Frank


His earthly life a hundred days,
He died inside his mother’s womb.
His tiny eyes would never gaze
On lights that earthly life illume.
His doctor called him “medical waste;”
His mother, shocked and horrified,
Demanded labor start posthaste
To hold in hand her child who died.

No unformed clump of cells was he,
With fingers, nail beds, boy parts, feet,
Toes, earlobes, gums, and tongue; we see
His human body wrought complete.
Fully formed, his peaceful face
Mirrored well his older brother.
In Mama’s hand he lay in place
Like Jesus by His grieving Mother.

His photos shared around the earth
Changed the minds of many mothers
Of babies far too young for birth;
His early death prevented others.
Some kept their babies, now rejoice;
Some women screamed, “What have I done?”
So many ceased to be “pro-choice,”
Their hearts repaired by one lost son.

(First published in The Society of Classical Poets
—Public Domain Photo Courtesy of Medusa


Based on The Power and the Glory by Graham Greene

I stand condemned because I am a priest,
Condemned to die by law here in Tabasco,
The last eight years of memories I’ve pieced

Together show my life’s one big fiasco,
For, stupidly, when all priests fled oppression,
I stayed down in Tabasco for prestige,
So now there’s no one who can take confession
Or chase the devils who my soul besiege.
Oh, why did I assume that I could stay
When others had the sense to move away?

I cheated on the Church with young María,
A woman who could never be my wife—
No need to search God’s Word like at Berea
To know we stole His fire for making life!
I can’t repent of having made my daughter;
For love of her, I’m headed straight to Hell.
This morning, like a lamb, I face the slaughter—
I’d have more courage if with Christ I’d dwell!
And yet, had I that moment to redo,
For her, I’d sacrifice my soul anew.

I’m damned, for, like a sheep, I’ve gone astray.
My thoughts turn to my daughter; she’ll be seven
And reach the age of reason.  God, I pray,
Please help her gain eternity in Heaven!
I weep, because I’m Father to all laymen,
But favor she who’s made from half my genes
With all my love and wish to save—such shame in
Being a priest, ignoring what it means!
As Jacob favored Joseph among his sons,
My heart toward no one but my daughter runs.
I risked my life—for what?  The rare Communion,
A few confessions for the village folk.
If I am damned for my illicit union,
Dear Lord, let them be spared the devil’s yoke!
I’m only here because someone requested
I take confession from a dying man,
And quickly turned me in to be arrested
As all along had been his Judas plan!
Perhaps it’s best that such a worm as I
Be sent to prison, all alone to die.

I grab and chug another flask of brandy
With guilt of all the deadly sins received.
I could be richer than a Spanish Grandee
If I had just denied that I believed!
I’d have María and a hefty pension,
My daughter, sons as newest plants in youth,
If I had just succumbed to the pretension
And turned my back forever on the Truth!
My sin annuls the fact that all those days,
For God’s Most Holy Word, I’ve kept hard ways.

I turned a home and family down for nada.
I turned away from God by one grave sin.
I’ve neither now.  His angel-saint armada
With flashing, flaming swords won’t let me in,
And as I fly to Jesus, He’ll deny me.
I’ll fall like lightning to the Lake of Fire.
Even the Blessed Virgin won’t stand by me;
I chose to burn in Hell for my desire.
So, chastity is nothing to disparage;
Don’t be like me!  Save all those things for marriage.

It soon shall be as if I’d not existed.
I’ll meet God empty-handed, nothing done.
In Heaven’s book, my name will be unlisted.
I’m useless, barely ever helped a one.
A few confessions, endless bad example,
Ignoble death—this legacy I leave.
Eight years to serve my fellow man was ample—
How easy sanctity was to achieve!
In doing good I had too much restraint,
Yet all that counted was to be a saint.

* * *

Notes: “Whiskey priest:” A term coined by Graham Greene for his novel, describing a priest who, like the protagonist, shows moral weakness but still believes in a higher standard and shows courage.
“Tabasco:” A province of Mexico, west of the Yucatán Peninsula and bordering the Gulf of Mexico.  The region was taken over by Radical Socialists in the 1930s, when the novel takes place.  Priests were given wives and pensions in exchange for renouncing their faith and all priestly functions, and refusing was a capital crime.
“Cheated on the Church:” Catholic priests enter into a marriage-like covenant with the Catholic Church and hence are said to be married to the Church.
“Berea:” Acts 17:11
“Like a lamb,” etc.: Isaiah 53:7
“Like a sheep,” etc.: Psalm 118 (119):176, cf. Isaiah 53:6
“Sons as,” etc.: Psalm 143 (144):12
“Kept hard ways:” Psalm 16 (17):4
“Lake of Fire:” Revelation 19:20
“Blessed Virgin:” The Virgin Mary, the mother of Jesus.  Catholics have always believed that in Heaven, she prays for sinners, especially the hard cases.

(First published in
The Society of Classical Poets)


Today’s LittleNip:

If people can be taught to hate, they can be taught to love. But we need to know, you can’t erase history. So, let’s learn from it and be damned sure it doesn’t happen again.

—Opal Lee


—Medusa, thanking Josh Frank for his fine poetry today on this Juneteenth~

—Public Domain Photo Courtesy of Medusa

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