Eating The Pen

There are policemen, who in the line of duty, end up at a point where they can no longer handle the conflict between their conscience and their job. Torn between choices they shouldn’t have to make, they sometimes eat their gun.

The department has no place for such men, yet recognizes their value. So they get a parade and a 21 gun salute.  It’s easier to honor them in death than in life.

But what does a journalist or writer do when faced with a similar unconscionable choice? He eats his pen.

But in the eating of a pen, there is no blood, no bang, no dead body. No one parades silence. No one salutes it. What is a small silo of silence in a world of cacophony?

Yet, they are both first responders. The cop and the journo.

Not all the dead bodies they see are transmitted via satellite to LCD screens on designer TV stands, with a side dish of potato chips. Yet, those bodies have names, stories, maybe even a street number. If nothing else, a notation in a field diary that no decent cop or journo will ever throw away. The detritus of someone else’s life, becomes part of their’s.

Their stench is real. It creeps in through the nostrils to some place in the cerebral cortex, and it never goes away. It resurfaces at odd times, even years later. From a gutter. From rotten food. From a badly cleaned toilet, a butcher shop. A reminder of someone who was once a man, woman or child.

The odd angle of a fallen corpse is forever imprinted on the iris. Clothes askew, the body in undignified surrender. Why do the violent dead always fall that way?

The blood they step into isn’t filtered through CMYK colors. It sticks to their shoes and their souls and must be washed by hand in their own bathrooms, back home.


Letter to a Friend


Dear S

It is strange that we spoke today after so long and ended up fighting over Mother Teresa.

But maybe not that strange after all. Most conversations these days are combats. It’s the new form of meaningful social engagement, duels in which one person has to walk away a winner.

Gone are the days of poetry and music; of banter and elegant, “I have to think about that one”, or “we have to agree to disagree.” We fling words like weapons. Hypocrite. Liar. Middle class. Tyrant. Dictator.

The gentler, more long winded, more lyrical phrases of yesteryear are too much for us. Easy with the truth; privileged; toff; For if you were by my unkindness shaken, As I by yours, y’have passed a hell of time.

It is strange, if not ironical, that such an uncharitable spat should happen in the defence of charity, which I’m told begins at home.Though I know not of such things. Charity is not something I’m accustomed to – either in the giving or taking.
Respect, now that I understand. I have had too much respect for my fellow beings, in the specific and largely in the general, to consider them in need of charity.

And that really is my whole offence with your beloved St. Teresa. I respect your love for her, but alas, cannot get myself to respect her in person.

Taking her entirely at her word, and hearing no one else, I cannot get myself to agree with her love of suffering as Jesus loved suffering. Not because, in this instance, I have a grouse against Jesus, but because I have a grouse against suffering. I would hurry the poor sufferers to a hospital, rather than to a place that just presided over their long wait to death.
It is a banal sentiment I know, entirely without romance of any kind. But are banal thoughts like mine not deserving of charitable consideration?

Having known a certain ailment myself, I oftentimes think a quick and horrible death is infinitely preferable to a slow, painful and long life. I state it is an observation. Not a mournful plaint.

Yet, I am no one to decide for everyone.

Am I grateful that she did, at least, provide a roof over peoples’ head and a clean bath every day? If indeed that is what they wanted – I am.

She did more than most people have done.

Does that make her a Saint – either literally or figuratively? Alas, no, I believe.

While I respect your love for her, my respect must end at the door of sainthood. Unlike you, I do not consider it the “internal matter” of the religion she belonged to.

To accept her sainthood without protest would be to accept the matter of miracles. To accept miracles would be to deny science. That is no internal matter of any religion. It is a matter of grave concern to any secular humanist.

To accept that anyone of any faith, however nice that person maybe, has caused a miracle to happen, is to allow for the possibility that such miracles can happen again. This time perhaps by a more militantly religious regime.
Imagine an ISIS friendly mullah claiming a miracle. Or an RSS friendly pandit.

To stand by silently for St Teresa and cry foul for the mullah or pandit– now that would be hypocrisy to my sadly, logic-driven mind. In retrospect, I believe the word pseudo-secularism was invented for behaviour like this. For the lack of a better phrase, perhaps the phrase Alt-Left, could also do?

If she is not literally a saint, is she figuratively a saint? I think for many people, including you, she is. I understand that and can respect it.

I take my heroes unvarnished though. Thomas Paine is one of them. His Common Sense helped kick off the American Revolution. He too can be accused of being anti-semitic. But he was what he was. I see him for who he was, in his time. Respect him for what he did, when he did it.

It is enough for me that he was a man.

If you need your heroes to be saints, I will argue with you no more. I will pretend it is innocence that drives you and we shall not wage war any more.




Oh Mother!


Oh Brother, the Mother!

You remember the smother

She heaped on the other?


No meds, no beds

No aid, no bedspreads

How she loved the undead!


I hear she’s a saint

I have no complaint

It’s just a name isn’t aint?


God rest her soul

On a ten foot atoll,

While I head for the punch bowl




Picture :  By © 1986 Túrelio (via Wikimedia-Commons), 1986 /, CC BY-SA 2.0 de,