Poems of Philip Appleman

My last post discussed the death of Philip Appleman. Here are a few of his short poems. (I love how they rhyme.)

God’s Grandeur from Karma, Dharma, Pudding & Pie.

“God will laugh at the trial of the innocent.” -Job, 9:23

When they hunger and thirst, and I send down a famine,
When they pray for the sun, and I drown them with rain,
And they beg me for reasons, my only reply is:
I never apologize, never explain.

When the Angel of Death is black wind around them
And children are dying in terrible pain,
Then they burn little candles in churches, but still
I never apologize, never explain.

When the Christians kill Jews, and Jews kill the Muslims,
And Muslims kill writers they think are profane,
They clamor for peace, or for reasons, at least,
But I never apologize, never explain.

When they wail about murder and torture and rape,
When unlucky Abel complains about Cain,
And they ask me just why I had planned it like this,
I never apologize, never explain.

Of course, if they’re smart, they can figure it out—
The best of all reasons is perfectly plain.
It’s because I just happen to like it this way—
So I never apologize, never explain.

“O Karma, Dharma, pudding and pie,” from Selected Poems (University of Arkansas).

“Karma, Dharma, pudding and pie,
gimme a break before I die:
grant me wisdom, will, & wit,
purity, probity, pluck, & grit.
Trustworthy, loyal, helpful, kind,
gimme great abs & a steel-trap mind,
and forgive, Ye Gods, some humble advice—
these little blessings would suffice
to beget an earthly paradise:
make the bad people good—
and the good people nice;
and before our world goes over the brink,
teach the believers how to think.

An excerpt from “The Skeletons of Dreams” from Darwin’s Ark (2009).

…Back home in his English garden,
Darwin paused in his pacing,
writing it down in italics
in the book at the back of his mind:
     When a species has vanished
     from the face of the earth,
     the same form never reappears…
So after our millions of years
of inventing a thumb and a cortex,
and after the long pain
of writing our clumsy epic,
we know we are mortal as mammoths,
we know the last lines of our poem.
And somewhere in curving space
beyond our constellations,
nebulae burn in their universal law:
nothing out there ever knew
that on one sky-blue planet
we dreamed that terrible dream.
Blazing along through black nothing
to nowhere at all, Mastodons of heaven,
the stars do not need our small ruin.

“GERTRUDE” (Gertrude Appleman, 1901-1976)

God is all-knowing, all-present, and almighty. — A Catechism of Christian Doctrine

I wish that all the people
who peddle God
could watch my mother die:
could see the skin and
gristle weighing only
seventy-nine, every stubborn
pound of flesh a small

I wish the people who peddle God
could see her young,
lovely in gardens and
beautiful in kitchens, and could watch
the hand of God slowly
twisting her knees and fingers
till they gnarled and knotted, settling in
for thirty years of pain.

I wish the people who peddle God
could see the lightning
of His cancer stabbing
her, that small frame
tensing at every shock,
her sweet contralto scratchy with
the Lord’s infection: Philip,
I want to die.

I wish I had them gathered round,
those preachers, popes, rabbis,
imams, priests – every
pious shill on God’s payroll – and I
would pull the sheets from my mother’s brittle body,
and they would fall on their knees at her bedside
to be forgiven all their faith.

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3 thoughts on “Poems of Philip Appleman

  1. So glad Moyer’s had him read some of these poems in his beautiful cadence. Jewels, preserved for history on YouTube. ” I’ll never apologize, never explain” why these precious words moved me also. Always have admired poets and artists who can distill the complexities of this life to a few essential words or pictures. Such a gift!

  2. I loved every word, so uncluttered, beautiful, clear, and true, Thank you Dr. Messerly

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