on #Perfidious Proverbs and Other Poems: A Satirical Look at the Bible, by Philip Appleman
Perfidious Proverbs by widely published poet and editor, Philip Appleman, is a collection of marvelously sacrilegious and satiric poems, skillfully created, on the hypocrisies and pitfalls of organized religion. The book underlines Appleman’s rise as the poet of secular humanism. As the editor of the definitive edition of Charles Darwin’s The Origin of Species, Appleman beckons his readers to a saner world wherein the discrepancies of Medieval dogma are called to witness and stand to be undone by 21st Century realizations. Appleman’s sharp and sensible wit and astute sense of irony exposes The Bible’s mythological and often unreasonable character. A vengeful god is portrayed with biblical accuracy to be exactly that, while Appleman seems to call for nurturance and love of humanity as a truer guiding principal.
Appleman demonstrates his love of truth and science over myth and legend. True to form, his rapier wit levels absurdities found in the character of religious zealots and fundamentalist and fanatical interpretations of the prophets of old. He portrays Biblical zealotry with the mockery it deserves as in the poem, “The Creator:”
“…..Well, as you know, things went from bad
to worse, from begat to begat,
father to son, the evil fruit
of all that early bial. So next
there was narcissism, then bigotry,
then jealousy, rage, vengeance!
And finally I realized, the spawn of Adam
had become exactly like—Me.
No Deity with any self-respect
would tolerate that kind
of competition, so what could I do?
I killed them all, that what!
Just as the Good Book says,
I drowned man, woman, and child, like
so many cats, Oh, I saved a few
for restocking. Noah and his crew,
the best of the lot, I thought. But
now you’re back to your old tricks again,
just about due for another good ducking,
or maybe giant barbecue.
And I’m warning you, if I have to do it again,
there won’t be any survivors, not even
a cockroach! Then,
for the first time since it was Primeval
Chaos, the world will be perfect—
nobody in it but Me. [p. 28-29]
Pedophile priests are an apt target for Appleman’s satiric wit:
“Oh, I know where I’m headed—
to “therapy,” as we always say,
a little paid vacation
with others who loved not wisely
but too young—and also, of course,
with the usual slew of dehydrating
whiskey priests. But don’t forget
that when they say I’m “recovered” again,
they’ll send me off to another parish,
with more of those little lambs—a priest,
after all, is a priest forever.
Meanwhile, as I bide my time,
and count my beads, and hum to myself
those luscious songs of Solomon,
what I’ll be thinking about—
rely on this, Your Reverences—
what I’ll be thinking about
is that brown-eyed boy
with the graceful neck, and the lower lip
that curled like a petal.” [from The Holy Men. pp.86-87]
Perfidious Proverbs is divided into Five Parts: I. “The Creator,” where we meet God talking his own version of Genesis; Part II. “The Created,” where we find characters like “Eve, Noah, Mary, Judas,” and “Jesus,” speaking their own private monologs; Part III. “The Holy Men,” where we find “Faith Healers, Priests, Televangelists” and such, iterating their individualized versions of hypocritical, relentless, and money making “faith.”
In Part IV, “Living with the Bible,” we find “The Parable of the One-Track Mind, The Doctor Killer Reading His Bible,” and “Parable of the Perfidious Proverbs,” among other diatribes in relevant and revelatory monolog. Finally, in Part V: “Salvation,” we experience: “Checkmate,” “Gathering at the River,” and “But, the Daisies Will Not Be Deceived by the Gods.”
In this final Part V, a poem that stands out in urgency for our time of climate crisis and religious wars introduces the section with: “Last Minute Message for a Time Capsule:” It ends,
“….I thought of your hovering saucers,
looking for clues, and I wanted to write this down,
so it wouldn’t be lost forever—
that once upon a time we had
meadows here, and astonishing things,
swans and frogs and luna moths
and blue skies that could stagger your heart.
We could have had them still,
and welcomed you to earth, but
we also had the righteous ones
who worshiped the True Faith, and Holy War.
When you go home to your shining galaxy,
say that what you learned
from this dead and barren place is
to beware the righteous ones.” [p.119]
The entire collection of Perfidious Proverbs gathers satirical poems from the breadth of Appleman’s long life as a writer, proving that he is a secular prophet beckoning his readers to an appreciation of the glories of natural creation and a compassionate, and humanistic understanding of life on our cherished and threatened planetary home. He never fails to regale us with laughter and delight us with his wit.
#Perfidious Proverbs and Other Poems: A Satirical Look at the Bible, by Philip Appleman, with a Foreword by Dan Barker © 2011 Humanity Books, an imprint of Prometheus Books, 59 John Glenn Dr. Amherst, NY 14228-2119.