Spotlight: Kelly Barnhill

It’s another glorious, sunny morning here in Australia, and the streets are awash in the early morning rays of light it’s pissing down rain and it looks like it’s going to stay that way.

No one is awake yet. It’s just me and my very loud typing.

I wanted to share the following poem with you. It was written by Kelly Barnhill, who lives in Minneapolis and is an excellent writer in addition to her notable and passionate work as a teacher. First, the poem….

++++DISCLAIMER: I DID NOT WRITE THIS POEM. IT WAS WRITTEN BY KELLY BARNHILL. I’M ONLY SHARING IT WITH YOU. IF YOU LIKE IT, HEAP  YOUR PRAISE & ENDLESS ADMIRING WORDS UPON HER, NOT ME. IF YOU WRITE TO TELL ME WHAT A FINE POEM I’VE WRITTEN I WILL HUNT YOU DOWN AND SHOVE A DICTIONARY IN ONE END AND A THESAURUS IN THE OTHER. GIVE THE PROPER WRITER HER DUE.  I TRIED TO DO A SCREEN SHOT, BUT I’M TOO STUPID TO FIGURE IT OUT AND GOT IT ALL WRONG.  MY APOLOGIES TO EVERYONE, INCLUDING KELLY.  IF SHE WANTS ME  TO TAKE IT DOWN, I WILL DO SO RIGHT QUICK WITHOUT PAUSE OR COMPLAINT+++

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Cheating at Cards With Jesus

By Kelly Barnhill

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?

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

I love this poem.  I think it’s startlingly beautiful and original in its imagery & metaphor, and I love the way it crackles and grinds in it’s own rhythms, obvious and internal.

What sucks is the way I found it.  Actually, what sucks is why I found it.

I came across the following poem via Sceptic Money, who commented on it after picking up the story on Almost Diamonds. Stephanie Zvan at Almost Diamonds does a great job of summing up the puzzling situation, but essentially Kelly began getting angry emails from Christians accusing her of all manner of things, including being an atheist.  That is just rubbish, because as anyone can read this is a smashing way of illustrating the very tenant of the New Testament: Grace.   Apparently American Christians prefer to picture Jesus fighting terrorists when not hunting with a legally owned handgun while hatin’ on the gays and listening to DC Talk.  And that’s about it.  No imagination, not a bloody trace of it.

I’m jealous of this poem.  I wish I wrote it.  Since I didn’t, I wanted to share it with you all, and in my own useless way “stick up” for Kelly and her writing.  I hope you like it.  I’m glad I came across it, even though the circumstances that led me to find it were probably rather annoying for her.  Also, I’d like to add that she doesn’t seem the least bit fazed by any of the criticism that she received, or if she is I certainly couldn’t find a trace of it.  Maybe it really got to her but she put on a brave face, or maybe she really didn’t give a sh-t.  She wasn’t complaining or crying or asking for sympathy in the least, which is pretty rock n roll.

With that being said, we’ve got a show tonight, which means that I spent last night on the floor of our bass player’s apartment, dozing off just before midnight. I got a phone call around 5 AM to let our drummer into the apartment, but otherwise it has been fairly quiet. I’m reading Dewey Defeats Truman, by Thomas Mallon, which, despite it’s title, is a work of fiction. It might even be queer fiction, but I’m not sure just yet. It might be only half-queer. (I use those terms in the literary sense, not in a pejorative manner. Seriously, if you go into any decent, sizable bookstore there will probably be a sign indicating “Queer Fiction”. I say this to avert any unnecessary hate-mail. Necessary hate-mail is fine though).  Also, I’m quite prepared for it if it does turn out to be “Queer Fiction”, because I read and enjoyed his Fellow Travellers, which most certainly was.

Peace for now.  Lots of stuff happening in the tiny world of Royal Chant.  Thanks for reading.  Be sure and send your words, thoughts, and support over to Kelly if you dig what she wrote.  She is a fine writer, so check out some of her other works.

Cheers,

Mark

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7 Responses to “Spotlight: Kelly Barnhill”

  1. mymatejoechip Says:

    but it was a lovely day yesterday.
    I am going to read that poem a few more times.
    American Jesus tells the poor to suck it up, get over it, move on, work harder.

  2. kellybarnhill Says:

    Oh, my gosh! Thank you so much for your kind words. I really appreciate it. Now I shall be beaming all day.
    :-)

  3. slantrhyme Says:

    Not all at Kelly, you deserve it. Well done, well written. Cheers : )

  4. Wayne Says:

    You pretty much said what i could not effectively communicate. +1

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  5. Hauk IT - Web Consulting Says:

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