“Sorry, but I can’t go to church with you today, Claire
you know as well as I do that I don’t belong there.
I never have, Hell, I haven’t been since I was seven,
I don’t believe in God, and I don’t believe in Heaven.
What I do believe in, to tell you my undeniable truth
is the lavish laws of science, and in concrete proof.
I believe in you, here, because I can see and touch you,
tracing pale skin with a finger and enjoying the view.
If you have to go though, then by all means you can go,
you never miss a service, you always manage to show.
But then, could God not give you a pass maybe?
Even he rested on the seventh day, by your history.
What’s one Sunday amidst fifty-two others anyway?
I’ll be in distant DC next week, so I’d prefer if you’d stay.
We’ll let this hangover fade and maybe watch Gravity;
I’ll marvel at the physics, you can scan for a deep-space deity.
Because I’d rather stay between these sheets until noon,
instead of sitting as a spotlighted sinner between the pews.
Those Sunday mass songs always scare me half to death,
and it’s not really where I’d like to be taking my last breath.
I’ll confess my sins another time, when I’m back in the UK
and maybe (just maybe), I’ll end up in church on a Sunday.
I’ll send you an excited email to let you know how it went,
and you can finally be proud that I saw the need to repent.
For now, I’ve grown colder now you’re dressing in the corner
pulling a T-shirt over the fading freckles on your shoulder.
You’ll have to rush home to switch into your Sunday clothes,
then rush to meet the hordes headed to mass in droves.
Really, just tell your parents that I’m not feeling too well –
take comfort in the knowledge I’ll be feeling worse in Hell.
Am I still coming to your parish for dinner on Wednesday?
I’ll make up a prayer, unless you can write me one to say.
Better for them to think, with their Christian family bond,
that you’ve found a religious boy from across the pond,
instead of me, who drinks too much and never prays at all –
who likes Satanic metal and bets frequently on football.
I’m a bad influence, still, watching as you slip on a shoe.
How many shots did you have last night, more than two?
Hurry back and have a few more, break your record of four,
don’t think I didn’t see that smile as you head for the door.
Enjoy your enlightenment, I’m going to stay here in bed,
Lie-in and then watch the early kick-off with a beer instead.
No kiss before you go, just that disappointed look,
painting and paining me as Judas from the good book.
So leave and learn those lines like a good Christian should,
spare me parables for pillow talk and pass me that can of Bud.
These days, that’s the only way I’ll end up seeing the Light,
my God, in his infinite wisdom dear, should deem that alright.”
Chichester, September 2016