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Written While Watching Notre Dame Burning
If I had a time machine
I could travel to Paris
to just before the fire broke
in Notre Dame,
I’d tell the Parisians
I’d travelled back from the future
to warn them,
and people would know
that a fire was about to start
and they’d be prepared.
But then someone would say
“my son died in a car accident last week,
can you take us back
so that I can stop him from going out?”
And someone else would say
“my mum died from cancer last year,
can you take us back so that I can
tell her I love her?”
Someone would want to go back
to September 10, 2001,
someone would want to kill Hitler,
or warn Abraham Lincoln.
And back further;
the Spanish Inquisition.
And all the dead would return
and ask to see their ancestors
and tell me about wars
that they had fought.
Someone would want to meet Jesus.
How far would I
be asked to go back?
Would I have to invent the wheel,
or demonstrate fire?
Would I become Prometheus?
between a hydrangea and an azalea
how am I supposed to choose a God?
If I can’t choose between
Blur and Oasis
or which car to drive,
bottle of whisky,
am I a cat or dog person,
would I like fries with my order,
would I like to upsize for an extra dollar,
should I carry an umbrella,
should I shift my retirement savings
from conservative to a riskier strategy
if it means I’ll get a better return?
How am I supposed to choose a God
if I can’t pick which people I’m meant to decry?
I mean, which gospel should I deny? Which flag should I burn?
Can I imagine no religion and choose the Gospel of John?
How am I supposed to choose a God if I like everyone?
We wiped down the walls to remove the tobacco shadows
from all the cigarettes you smoked after dinner
when we’d sit around and you’d tell us your stories.
We filled in the holes and removed
any impressions of the pictures you’d hung;
the photos of our school days, holidays, birthdays,
the portraits of innocent times,
ignorant of mortality.
A coat of paint, a neutral beige,
now muffles all the whispers of the life we had,
back when you’d tuck us in at night
and tell us you loved us.
After the sale we’ll divide the proceeds
according to your will
and go on with our own lives,
in our own separate houses.
Published in Door=Jar Issue 9, Winter 2019