Parliament of Religions

as if from on high (1892)

Standing right there on the Boulevard of Michigan's fancy like it's the point on a shiny brass compass or a the setting on a smart dial. Right there facing the grubby city is the Auxiliary Building of the World's Congress. To the west of it lay Chicago brimming over with pride and watery beer and to it's right are the autumnal waters of Lake Michigan. On the Boulevard 400 seekers in their long robes or their homespun leggings or their looped trains of shells gathered from the south sea's wet atolls gather like princely teeth. These are the mariners of the soul, the worlds holiest of holy's and they're being ushered into the grand plaster and lath concourse of the white building. On September 11 the Parliament of Religions opened itself to the worlds most and least curious eyeballs. The dirty mop hands the drovers and foul letter-carriers from the foul offices of government are all in attendance. Sitting in rows under the stained glass dome watching watching and waiting for it. The mordant godsayers all bobble and stoop while prostrating themselves among the low benches. Once settled with their faces forward, each to a man of them blinks. Then as a one they'll fart. In his fine handwriting the honorable Sri Ali Taj of the Kashmir Post Picayune likens the sound to, Heavenly....
Meanwhile outside in the street there's a young boy, collapsed from exhaustion. His paper sack and all of it's eggs lay scattered around him like smooth beach stones in a hopelessly painted vignette. A tall nameless woman in a black bonnet rushes to help. Just then a throng of wild birds and bare chested men appear in front of the Auxiliary Building. As if by quiet and explosive action the building's steps are spontaneously littered buttery yellow from the countless petals of crushed calendula. The boy the woman and the birds with men are all unaware of the swing lens panoramic camera and its operator hidden beneath the rich velvety hood. The thick caption in the evening press will read, BUT FOR WHY..
In truth no one knows. We're older now, someone in the street proclaims loudly. We've changed and some of us want to die here. I know that, says the rag-picker from the first ward as she leads her cart past the commotion. The street smells a lot like rotting lumber and odd numbered holy men. It doesn't smell at all like epiphany or even like her boots. She skirts the crowd and makes her way towards the river. The cart's heavy wheels are uneven and its axle is a little crooked. She does her best to keep it moving along but its a willful and insubordinate bastard of a shit heap.
Its nearly at noon now and still going on like an old clock. The day stretches long and flat into the shape of a worn eye being kicked smart. The rag-pickers son's a preacher with a tar stained collar. A dark spirit filled with spite and bitter. His ministry is in a short stick of an alley off 4th. The boy's wife, Carolina was a dead ringer for handsome. Then he left her inside a short box in the potter's field. Preaching helped the pastor's spurious acceptance of crippling shame after she passed. Still, gad man or not he's a miserable gob spit on an otherwise yellow flag.
I'm gonna raise my arms to Jesus... I'm gonna bend my sinners knee... Our Judgement days upon us... Rise up rise up rise up with me... I'm gonna sing my praise to Jesus... He's gonna walk with me... Down to the river out in the water... He's going to set me free... 


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