Friday, April 06, 2012

A Bud Osborn Poem for Good Friday

This afternoon, on Good Friday, we walked around the neighbourhood for the fourth time in our little church's life together.  Our first ever service, three years ago, was a Good Friday service.  So happy third birthday, God's House of Many Faces!  

As we walked, we stopped at various places to remember parts of the crucifixion story.  At each site, we each planted a wildflower seed and sang, "Unless the seed falls to the ground, ain't gonna be no life at all."

We also read excerpts of poetry by Bud Osborn at each stop.  Bud Osborn is one of the coolest people I know.  Actually I don't really know him at all, but I know his work, and every time I see him in the neighbourhood, I feel like I want to ask for his autograph.  He's a DTES resident, prolific poet, activist (especially against homelessness and against the war on drugs), a very humble and courageous soul.  The story goes that he began following Christ after having been given the book "The Prophetic Imagination" by Walt Brueggemann.  

Today, for our service, Jodi chose several excerpts from Bud's poem "Street Sermon" that I've copied out in full below.  It's from his book "Hundred Block Rock."  The first time I read this poem, when it was printed in the local Carnegie Newsletter last year, I found myself weeping.  For some reason, the title and disclaimer led me to expect a full-on anti-Christian diatribe.  Instead I got one of the rawest, most moving sermons I've ever read.  I write it here in hopes that you'll be similarly moved this Good Friday, and in hopes that you'll buy some of Bud's poetry.

The poem is long, and there is some language, but I promise, it's worth it.

Street Sermon

(after hearing one too many preachers haranguing about hell-fire on granville street)

brothers and sisters    fellow low-life    listen    we are in luck    one 
guy at least    came just for us    a tremendous low-life    jesus    he 
didn't come down here    to this blood-stew    for no limousine 
riders    no bible thumpers    no hotshot angle-shooters    no
came down here    I believe it's the truth    for me and you    I 
mean    junkies    winos    hookers    cripples    crazies    thieves
welfare bums    and homeless freaks    lowest of the low    least of 

do your parents hate you?    your teachers hate you?    po-lice 
hate you?    your friends hate you?    you hate you?    you're 
really in luck    everybody hated jesus too    you got nowhere to 
live?   nowhere to go?    nowhere to hang your hat?    jesus said 
to a cat    'even the foxes of the field    and the birds of the air
got somewhere    to lay their weary ass down    but not me    oh 

do people scorn you?    put you down?    tell stories about what 
a problem    you are?    a judge told me    I was of no use to society
the president    of a university    told me I was trash and obscene
my own mother    god bless her    told me I was     the world's 
biggest asshole    but all that    just makes me eligible     to hook
up with jesus    who got nailed up    bleeding    sweating    balls-
naked    to a wooden cross    to take    all that bad bullshit   off my 

jesus tells you    not to hate your own self    which is easy to do
out here    running around like a fool    but just ask jesus    he'll
help you with that    'love yourself' he says    'so you can    love 
somebody as    unloved    and unlovable   as you been'

I mean    jesus didn't come all this way    go through all that
trouble    to send you and me to hell    no    maybe these other
soft successful    types    I don't know    but not you and me    bona 
fide losers    you and I know    this world    is all the hell    we're 
going to see    jesus came to cool us out    from this hell    right 
here    right now    for real    with love    not handcuffs    editorials
or plastic gloves

do you slash-up?    overdose?    drink lysol?  stick rigs in your 
arms?   or pull a knife on somebody else?  well    jesus is just for 
you    he was the world's    all-time    biggest    loser     the straight 
people    the priests    and judges    hated him because    he said
low-life scum    would get to heaven     before they did

and at the end    when jesus needed his friends    they all took off
on him    except for a hooker    named magdalen    but all his 
close friends    split    said 'no way I don't know him'    except for 
his friend judas    who    turned jesus in    to crimestoppers    his 
friends made him    take the rap    all alone    you know how that 
feels    and jesus     kept his mouth shut    when pontius pilate
the chief of police    wanted jesus to cop-out    with a plea

so if you feel misunderstood    nobody know how you feel    or
what you talking about    that's jesus too    he know about you
he been    through it     and don't you allow these    puffed-up
self-righteous    chumps     sell you no    goody-goody jesus    hell
no    jesus got pissed off plenty times

when jesus was    wandering around    no bus fare    all his 
buddies    kept saying    'what should we do?    what should we 
do?    we're scared'    jesus told them    'lay down your life for 
your friends    and if    your enemy    rip-off your coat    give him 
your shoes too     give up this     money-grubbing    power-tripping
fantasy-acting    ego bullshit    give it up    and you won't be 
scared no more'

but jesus got    hung up    between two thieves    just another 
criminal    and everybody thought so little    of jesus    was down
on him    so bad    they let    a mad terrorist bomber    go free
instead of him    but jesus told that thief    hanging on the cross
next door    like he telling you and me    'right now today    this 
very hour man    I take you with me    to paradise'    jesus told a 
death-row thief    he was going to take him    to paradise

jesus didn't tell    a stockbroker    didn't tell    a rock promoter
he told    the brokers and promoters    'you can't get to paradise
the way you going'    a young banker    came up to jesus    said
'I dig your rap    what I gotta do?'    and jesus told him     'give it 
up brother'    said    'give all your money to the poor    the punks
the drunks    the bums    give it up'    and that banker    did to 
jesus    what most people    do to you    when you got    your 
hand out    he just walked away    'anything but my sports car'

in his own hometown    they called jesus    a crazy motherfucker
I been called crazy    lots of time    in my hometown    locked up 
in the nuthouse to prove it    and jesus    his neighbours told him
'we know you boy    don't go pullin    none of them miracles
around here'    and tried    to grab his ass    but he ran fast   damn
but you know    what that's like

and if you think    you got trouble    just keeping your name
straight    jesus    confused many fools    with that    'are you god 
or what?'    they were always asking him    he said    'who do you 
say that I am?'    a smart-ass    jesus was always being told     'you 
can't do that    it's against the rules    it's against the law'    but 
jesus talking about    the spirit    body and soul    the whole deal
real    real life    not just    bingos    lotteries    and videos

and jesus believed    in having a good time    told those tight-ass 
bastards    his kingdom    was like a wedding reception    and first 
thing jesus did    was turn water into wine    so they wouldn't run 
out    and the authorities    called him    a drunkard    but jesus
just kept saying    'help each other    love each other    no matter 
what    it's the only thing    you can count on'

so     fellow low-life    just know    jesus loves you    if nobody else
does    I know he loves me    especially when I don't    love myself
or anybody else    it's hard to believe in love    in this cruel city   in 
this    nightmare time    that everybody else pretends    is just fine
but remember    no matter what kind    of nasty shit you pull
jesus loves you    in fact    you can't make jesus    not love you

but when you been    kicked around    since you were born    love 
is like    an insult    'oh we love you so much    we want to hurt you 
some more'    but not with jesus    when you suffering    real bad
just reach a hand    out of your    heart    and he'll help you make 
it    jesus has already    helped you make it    you just didn't know it.

and the gospel tell you    the gospel just    the highlights of a
low-life    jesus believed    in the devil too    the devil that runs 
around    in him    and her    and me    and you    and all over
everyplace else    seems like    jesus knew the devil personally but 
jesus didn't    go on and on    about some    therapy-self-help-
socialworker-shrink-headed-victim-disease-shit    jesus knew we 
couldn't be    this crazy    this miserable    this goddamned 
mean and vicious    without a lot of help    from the devil    so 
jesus    kick-boxed the devil    right out of people    jesus knows 
we're weak    and easily possessed    by all the crap    in this world
jesus    knows all this stuff

so the devil    came to see jesus    one on one    when jesus was
strung-out    from not eating    and hanging-out    in the desert
near kamloops    and the devil said    to jesus 'if you're such a 
bigshot   turn this stone    into a loaf of bread    and feed yourself'    
and jesus said    'forget you    I'd rather be    hungry    than do   
what you tell me to do'    did you ever do that?    refuse    and have 
people say    'you don't know    what's good for you?

then the devil    said to jesus    'look here    I show you    all the 
world  cars    drugs    power    sex    beer    in the    whole world    
I'll give you all that    just say you're mine'    but jesus    could not 
be bought    and the devil kept     working on him    the devil said    
'okay    you so stupid    jump off this cliff    and see if your big 
daddy save you   like you always    talking about'    jesus just 
laughed    he knew better

I haven't always known better though    those deals    the devil 
offered jesus    sound pretty good   to me    but I have been    
mostly fucked-up   in my life    so I ain't the best expert    on 
my own life  I do need help    so   all you    nuts    junkies    freaks
jesus is always    by your side    like a kind of   no bullshit    
truth-talking guide    always with you   but not     so close by    
he'll get on    your nerves

I mean a lot of times you think    he's not there at all    cause he
ain't doing    what you think   he ought to be     doing for you   but 
he's there    knowing what you need    better than you do   knowing
you    better than you do    just like    the devil do

but that's good    because everything    I know how to do   and 
everything    you know how to do    has got us both    right here   
probably broke    maybe on dope    no real hope    listening to a 
lunatic   like me    because neither of us    has figured out anything    
better to do    with the    mountain-moving love    jesus   has made us    
all    to be

(Bud Osborn)

1 comment:

Brian Walsh said...

Remembering this poem, so apt for Good Friday, is poignant today as we mourn Bud's death. Maybe today we need to read and shout, "Amazingly Alive". That is Bud's Easter poem. That is his poem about resurrection.

Bud Osborn: Presente