"General William Booth and Senator Bernie Sanders Enter Heaven" - Eugene C. Bianchi

 
 
"General William Booth*
and Senator Bernie Sanders
Enter Heaven" - Eugene C. Bianchi



Prologue: “You can’t make it work,”
says my muse Max,
“Socialism is not poetic,
and I’ve got better things to do.”
He’s a wonderful but stiff-necked cat,
yet we ancients can be stubborn.
Maybe if I start on the softer side…
 
Reminded of altar-boy days,
bell-ringing draws me
to the sacred red kettle
outside the local Kroger’s
as I fish for coins to make a holy noise—
bills are better, but not dramatic.
 
As a long-time lefty,
I still feel a certain frisson
run up my spine enhanced
by the bearded smile and thanks
of General William Booth
promising to lead me into heaven,
“Have you been washed, Brother,
in the blood of the Lamb?”
 
Boomlay, boomlay, boomlay, boom,
 
from somewhere gentle drums intone,
while deaf customers glimpse
with admiration or disdain
for the showoff giver
and the white-bearded Booth.
 
Yet who can degrade the great
humanitarian who led
“vermin-eaten saints with mouldy breath
 unwashed legions with the ways of Death”
to a better life even here?
 
Boomlay, boomlay, boomlay, boom.
 
From Trinity Church and Washington’s statue,
marchers converge on Wall Street
with a thousand banjos and a thousand drums,
 
Twanglay, twanglay, twanglay twang,
Boomlay, boomlay, boomlay, boom.
 
Inside they curse the distraction
from moneymaking,
yet they rush to windows
and sidewalks to watch
the strange parade.
 
The Senator’s voice reverberates
in the canyons of greed—
charity is good but justice better,
you cannot hoard the wealth of all.
 
Brothers and sisters, be washed
in the spirit of the great ones
who loved the light
of shared democracy
where avarice does not deprive
children of food, home and learning.
 
Twanglay, twanglay, twanglay, twang.
Boomlay, boomlay, boomlay, boom.
 
Onward to the edge of Battery Park,
they face Lady Liberty
who lifts her torch in blessing.                                                                                               
 
Twanglay, twanglay, twanglay, twang.
Boomlay, boomlay, boomlay, boom.
 
 
 
*General William Booth was founding first president
of the Salvation Army in 1865. I have drawn from
two poems by Vachel Lindsay, “General William
Booth Enters Heaven,” and “Congo.”

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