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. Credo 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. Splainin’ 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.