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Heads Up poetry column: Gertrude


Gertrude Appleman, 1901-1976

God is all-knowing, all-present, and almighty.

— A Catechism of Christian Doctrine

I wish that all the people

who peddle God

could watch my mother die:

could see the skin and

gristle weighing only

seventy-nine, every stubborn

pound of flesh a small


I wish the people who peddle God

could see her young,

lovely in gardens and

beautiful in kitchens, and could watch

the hand of God slowly

twisting her knees and fingers

till they gnarled and knotted, settling in

for thirty years of pain.

I wish the people who peddle God

could see the lightning

of His cancer stabbing

her, that small frame

tensing at every shock,

her sweet contralto scratchy with

the Lord’s infection: Philip,

I want to die.

I wish I had them gathered round,

those preachers, popes, rabbis,

imams, priests – every

pious shill on God’s payroll – and I

would pull the sheets from my mother’s brittle body,

and they would fall on their knees at her bedside

to be forgiven all their faith.

From Perfidious Proverbs and Other Poems:

A Satirical Look At The Bible