Today’s Poem: “Cheating at Cards With Jesus”

Cheating at Cards With Jesus

The Lord is a pain in the ass when He’s had too much whiskey.
But then, so’s anyone, so I couldn’t fault Him for it.
He leered over the rim of his cards and winked.
The table had cleared out. It was just him and me.
He sipped on the dregs of His drink and belched.
“Well,” He said. “What’ll it be?”

“I thought people bet their souls with the Devil,” I said.
Jesus yawned. “It’s cliché,” He said. “And you’re stalling.”
He fingered the card that I knew was a queen of hearts.
“And anyway, the Devil sucks at cards. Only a poet can play poker properly.
The Devil’s a numbers guy.”

“Hit me,” I said. Jesus paused.
“You sure?” He said, thumbing the top card.
King of clubs. I already knew it. I had marked it myself.
Or Jesus had marked it.
After all this time, the cards were well-worn and as readable as faces.
There were no more surprises, and I was about to go bust.

“Hit me,” I said again. Jesus nodded and filled our glasses.
The whiskey burned its way down until my whole body gleamed.
Jesus held His glass next to his drink-flushed face. He closed His eyes.
“A poem works, not for what it says, but what it does not say,” He said.
“A poem speaks from the empty spaces; silence brings light to the gloom.”

“Your point?” I asked. Why drag it out? I snatched His drink and gulped it down.
“A game is the same way. Just when you think you’ve won, you’ve lost,
and just when you think you’re lost, you are found.”
“I think you’re confusing your words,” I said.
Drunk asshole, I thought.

“I fold,” Jesus said. “You win.”
A boozy smile. A hard stare.
Two bright eyes,
hot and old as nebulas,
burn across the table. I wince.

“So,” He said. “What are you gonna do about it?


19 thoughts on “Today’s Poem: “Cheating at Cards With Jesus”

  1. Pingback: Cheating at Cards With Jesus | Almost Diamonds

  2. Pingback: The Reasons For My Excellent Mood: A Numbered List | Kelly Barnhill: Author, Teacher, Mom.

  3. Wow. You know, when you think about the Crucifixion… well, lets just say I can see a really interesting analogy.

    Very clever writing, very clever indeed.

  4. *looks around sheepishly*

    *raises hand*

    Umm… Atheist here.

    So I’m pretty sure I’d recognize Jesus-bashing when I see it. And this isn’t that. To my reading this is non-kitschy poem that symbolically demonstrates the idea that that Jesus is willing to come down to our level and sacrifice himself in order to save us from a fate that we marked for ourselves and from which we cannot escape.

    You know. Like that whole crucifixion thing that some of your critics might be vaguely aware of.

    I mean… Seriously? What’s wrong with some people?

    Anyway, atheist or not I still really like the poem. Those nebula eyes leap up out of nowhere. Very cool.

  5. Apparently, this poem is better appreciated by the non-religious. Not quite seeing what in it should cause god to give the poet over to eternal torment. I can only put it down to jealousy, lack of imagination, or both.

    I’ve read a lot of poetry by a lot of people, and this one shines with talent. I am loving your way with words. Bravo, and don’t you ever stop!

  6. I like this poem a lot. Jesus in this poem reminds me of one of Neil Gaiman’s characters from American Gods, in that he is more “human” and easier to relate to than a God On High. I agree with Daniel Schealler’s assessment above: “…symbolically demonstrates the idea that that Jesus is willing to come down to our level and sacrifice himself in order to save us from a fate that we marked for ourselves and from which we cannot escape.” Also, lovely flow and imagery.

  7. Pingback: Skeptic Money » Blog Archive » “Cheating at Cards With Jesus” – A Poem By Kelly Barnhill - You make sense but does your money?

  8. I really liked the line: “Jesus yawned. “It’s cliché,” He said. “And you’re stalling.” ” I actually startled at the “you’re stalling” part. Very well done. (Oh, and I’m another atheist who heard about your work through svon’s post).

  9. Hi there!

    Yet another atheist who thinks you wrote a terrific poem, which does an excellent job of illustrating the Christian idea of what it was Jesus did. It’s a shame some people are responding the way they are. Keep on writing!

  10. Pingback: Atheists Love Stories, Too | En Tequila Es Verdad

  11. Pingback: Spotlight: Kelly Barnhill « slantrhyme

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