A difference between spirituality and religion -- BLACK CROSS

Spirituality enlarges the soul, religion squashes it.
Spirituality is a magnificent tree.
Religion is cutting down and killing the tree to make a religious symbol.

With all the tiresome bullshit spouted this time of year by people who own stock in one form of cosmic hooey or another, I think of this poem often.

And in the neverending election year, people who want POWER all brag about how well they can kneel at the cross.
Fuck that -- I don';t want to hear about it -- that's THEIR business and none of mine and it is NOT an acceptable alternative to qualify a person to receive our trust.

This point has been said better by others.
This poem is one of the ones that says it better than I can.

I first heard this poem in 1963 on a record by Lord Buckley.

The poem --  Black Cross -- was written and published in 1948 by Joseph S. Newman in a collection of poems entitled It Could Be Verse. The poet ran a sporting goods store in Cleveland, and wrote and published both as a poet and as a local journalist. (He was the uncle of the actor Paul Newman.)

Lord Buckley may have met Newman at some time. He recorded two of the other poems in his collection, Jehova and Finnegan and Leviathan and another The Shah's Embroidered Pants that was not in the book. 

Black Cross was also performed by Bob Dylan and can be found on bootleg recordings.

Attempts to put dialect into print is primitive and outdated, and the following is as clear an example of that as one might find --- but despite that, the meaning -- the essence --- comes through unscarred, as immediate and relevant as anything can be.

(This is Lord Buckley's version which differs slightly from the poem as originally published.)

There was Old Hezekiah Jones, of Hogback County.
He lived on a hill in a weatherbeaten hovel.
And all that he owned was a two-acre plot
with a bed and some books and a hoe and a shovel.

Old Hezekiah, black as the soil he was hoeing,
Worked pretty hard to make both ends meet.
Raised what he ate, with a few cents over
To buy corn likker that he drank down neat

And a few cents more that he put in the cupboard
Against what he called "de rainy season,"

But he never got to save more'n two or three dollars
Till he gave it away for this or that reason.

The white folks around knew old Hezekiah...
"Harmless enough, but the way I figger
He better lay off'n them goddam books,
'Cause readin' ain't good fer an ignorant nigger."

Reverend Green, of the white man's church,
Finally got around to "comin' ovah
To talk with you-all about the Pearly Kingdom
An' to save yo' soul fer the Lawd Jehovah!"

"D'ya b'lieve in the Lawd?" asked the white man's preacher.

Hezekiah puckered his frosty brow,
"Well I can't say 'yes,' so I ain't gonna say it,
Caze I ain't SEEN de Lawd... nowhere... no-how."

"D'ya b'lieve in Heaven?" asked the whiteman's preacher,
"Where you go, if you're good, fer yer last rewa'hd?"

"Ah'm good," said Hezikiah, "good as Ah'm able,
But Ah don't expect nothin' from Heaven OR the Lawd."

"D'ya b'lieve in the Church?" asked the white man's preacher.

Hezekiah said, "Well de Church is divided;
Ef they can't agree, than Ah cain't neither...
Ah'm like them... Ah ain't decided."

"You don't b'lieve nothin'," roared the white man's preacher.

"Oh yes Ah does," said old Hezikiah,
"Ah b'lieve that a man's beholden to his neighbahs
Widout de hope of Heaven or de fear o' hell's fiah."

There's a lot of good ways for a man to be wicked...

They hung Hezikiah as high as a pidgeon,
And the nice folks around said, "He had it comin'
'Cause the son-of-a-bitch didn't have no religion!"


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