Brice C – Charlie Brice

 A Question
 Here’s a question: Say George Frederic Handel
 got an idea in the middle of the night; did he jump
 out of bed, scuttle fingers over ivories, scribble notes 
 on staves, while sitting in his underwear?
 His underwear wasn’t like ours. Jockeys were 
 centuries away, even boxers were short of imagination.
 Handel would have worn, on those hot inspired nights, 
 braies which looked like something in between 
 diapers and capris pants. Think of that:
 George Frederic Handel, at his piano, 3 AM, dressed 
 in a glorified diaper, finishing the Hallelujah Chorus,
 singing to Jesus whom, he claimed, showed up for the
 end of his song. That’s why everyone stands when 
 the Hallelujah Chorus is performed. They stand there, 
 like Jesus, but no one thinks of Handel in his underwear. 
 Maybe that’s what we ought to do next time the Messiah is
 performed: strip down to our skivvies and prance, half naked, 
 like Allen Ginsberg always wanted us to do. The poet is 
 always naked before the world, Ginsberg once told a heckler,
 and then disrobed, removed even his underwear. Back
 to Handel: it’s miraculous what no air conditioning or
 antiperspirants and spurting serotonin could accomplish
 on a sweaty August night in London in 1741. A neurotransmitter 
 blitz in George’s brain could have conjured anything from 
 an angry snake-headed Virgin to a bulbous balloon in the form 
 of John Wesley. We shouldn’t take this Jesus thing too seriously.
 Still, the music, that gorgeous oratorio, that chorus that has 
 this atheist pressed in praise, that heaves heathens towards
 heaven, could make anyone see paradise, could lift us all 
 out of the doldrums, help us stand naked before the world.
 I lost my taste for communion,
 too much like cannibalism,
 same for confession: telling 
 some guy in a dress about 
 my most intimate indiscretions
 seemed an unnecessary humiliation.
 Pari Passu, I grew tired
 of the robes, the pomp,
 the silly servitude. 
 I lost interest in the goofy music:
 They will know we are Christians
 by our love, by our love.
 I’d never met people so adept
 at using “love” to express hate.
 Here’s what I believe in: 
 the golden gilded sunrays that
 light the sanctuary in the morning.
 I want to stand in that light,
 in its warmth, inhabit the border
 of a holy card, live inside
 the egg yolk hues of a halo.
 We had front row seats,
 mid-ice, $20 apiece, 1985,
 Ari’s first hockey game.
 Lemieux scored his 17th goal
 of that season, shot it so hard
 he broke the puck. The ref
 flipped the biscuit 
 over the plexiglass—
 gave it to us.
 That night’s promo, a large
 plastic thermos, used by fans
 across the ice to beat the puck 
 out of one another. I distracted 
 Ari from the melee 
 by getting him to focus
 on the hockey game—
 what must have been 
 a first for the sport!
 On our way home we
 passed women on street 
 corners dressed in flimsy
 overcoats, wearing thick
 red lipstick, looking wanton
 as we sped up Fifth Avenue
 in Pittsburgh. “Who are those
 women?” Ari asked, wide-eyed
 in wonder. “They are women
 of the night,” I told him.
 Once home, Judy, my sweet
 wife and Ari’s mother,
 asked if we had a good time.
 Ari handed her the broken puck
 that “Mamoo” had scored, said
 the game was fun, but “most
 fun of all was seeing the
 women of the night.”
 I had some splainin’ to do
 that night—oh yeah, 
 some splainin’ to do.

 The Truth About the Universe
 Think of it: No space, only a density packed 
 so tightly it had to explode. Then, like a breasted
 body that births purpose and possibility, space
 happened, kept expanding to include,
 everything—all the planets, stars, comets, 
 asteroids, and us. Space isn’t air! 
 Air is unique to our Goldilocks planet.
 We’re just the right distance from our sun.
 None of this has to do with judgement
 only description, not with gods,
 the so-called designers (invented by us
 so we can kill people but avoid death
 ourselves), invented within that delusion 
 we call faith, within that cocoon of nonsense 
 on Saturdays, Sundays, or holy days, that 
 expands, gets so dense that it, too, explodes,
 casting crusaders, true believers, the chosen
 to slaughter everyone who doesn’t believe
 what they believe. Still, the universe continues: 
 Spins and expands, heaves and hos, without
 porridge or green cheese, communion, or 
 prophet, or interventions from Sky Daddies.
 There’s nothing that a little gravity, magnetism,
 and a supernova or two can’t do.

Charlie Brice is the author of Flashcuts Out of Chaos (2016), Mnemosyne’s Hand (2018), and An Accident of Blood (2019), all from WordTech Editions. His poetry has been nominated for the Best of Net anthology and twice for a Pushcart Prize and has appeared in The Atlanta Review, The Main Street Rag, Chiron Review, Permafrost, The Paterson Literary Review,and elsewhere. 


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