Charlie's angels

By Eloisa Griffiths 

Think of a summer that lasted forever
Immortalised now in heyday songs of the 80s.


Coyote girls,
We were his favoured disciples.
Long-legged, uncombed hair, sun-born freckles from a life on the ranch,
Vested in threadbare dresses which cling
To our gangly, bony, frames
We roam, and range the prairie towns in our pack of four
Children of the desert,
We worship at the altar of wild lands, free lands, promised lands
I don’t need a home, for I have found my Family.


Honeyed words dripped from the forked tongue of a second messiah
He offered us the lotus, and we ate.
Bathed in an opiate fog
All was made a haze, a glorious glaze
Over the dirt and the stench and the shit and the rot of the real.
He promised us an island paradise
Placing the knife in our hands, calling it freedom;
[in chorus] We did what we had to do.
The strum of his guitar was a siren’s lure
Prophesying dreams of salvation, ascension –
Love, mine alone –
And again, crooning the eternal chorus:
We did what we had to do.


I stand in this church of lies
Lit by gas-light
Foundations steeped in stagnant pools;
I could not see, my eyes silvered by deceit.
I kneel before the pulpit of sun-baked earth,
Head thrown back in zealous ecstasy,
And echo his holy sermon:
We did what we had to do.


Look up at the frescoed ceiling
Look at the golden rays pouring from his head!
But the cross behind him is wrong, broken, burning, topsy-turvy
And why am I the one who feels the nails driven through my palms
While his are clean and pure?


This is not a place where souls are saved
But where souls go to die, to burn.
Look at the souls trapped behind stained glass

That bleeds red
Incarnadines the diamonds of lead
And soaks the stone.


Once blind, now I am beginning to see. Isn’t it amazing?
The prison bars which crowd my vision these days chase the incense-fog away.
I am not so sad to be here; I think I was always chained,
I just swapped his cage for a new one.
These nights give birth to screams which run fingernails across my mind;

Her screams, unborn screams, which plague the hinterlands of memory.
Maybe I should have put beeswax in my ears
All those long years ago, roped myself to the mast.


In the cell across from me, my Sister prays
To the frayed, torn edges of his icon taped to the wall.


I don’t pray as often as I used to.


We did what we had to do.
We did what we had to do.
We did what we had to do.


Didn’t we?

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© Helicon Magazine 2019

University of Bristol