Nailed to the Family Tree


i) Fashion
My teacher gives me a book
about this German bloke,
who reckons religion
is the ‘opiate of the people’.
Mr Swaggert says ‘opiate’
means ‘drug’.
It makes me think of Mum,
her Filipino upbringing
and the whole Catholic thing.

Dad once told me,
shaking his head,
how some young men
in the Philippines
actually ‘volunteer’ to be crucified
every Easter:
“They take 3 inch nails
and drive them right through their bloody palms!”

When I ask mum about it
she give me a run down
of her life as a kid
growing up in San Fernando city.

She remembers the smells mostly:
burnt oil,
passionfruit cakes,
monsoon mud
and decay.

But she also remembers
hot, bloated nights
where plain-throated sunbirds
would line up
as sentinels
on tired and droopy power lines
marshalling in the sea-salt mist.

And yes she remembers seeing
very clearly
not one,
not three
but twenty-four real life crucifixions
at Cristo Rey Mountain Park
when she was 16
and she has the photos to prove it.

A minute later and Mum returns
with a motley brown scrapbook
which she opens like an old wound;
the faded black and white photos spilling out
onto the floor

ii) Fetish
At school I type
‘public crucifixion’ into google
and navigate my way to
to a Filipino tourism website.

There’s a picture of a Filipino man
being crucified
surrounded by locals
dressed in centurion costumes.

In the background is a giant
sparkly red billboard
with white writing:

‘Coke is life’

The caption under the photo reads:
‘Angelis Religious Tours;
take yourself to the heart of reverence.’

“That’d be bloody right,”
I laugh to myself.

A bit more searching
a webpage later
and I discover that
‘Coca Cola will be soaking up the goodwill today
as the key sponsor
of the Good Friday crucifixions
in the Philippines.’

I laugh again
and I can’t help but wonder
if maybe
there’s a sponsor out there for me;
one who can save me from this half-caste life.

A sponsor who can throw
a ‘schweppervescent’ smile
my way
to bubble and fizz
and lift me out
of this sterile white
fetish bright
wetsuit tight
pig ugly world.

iii) Mass
We sit
as usual
in the fifth row.

Mum’s all
bent knees
downturned eyes
and whispers.
Well Dad’s just there
out of obligation
although sometimes
I reckon he
glances at the blonde
two rows back.

It’s two weeks out from Christmas.
The smell of eucalyptus
is blowing through the church’s side door
and a Kookaburra
is cackling outside
while Father Michael
tries to give his homily.

Father Michael ignores the laughter,
driving his sharp
vinegary words
like nails
deep into the parishioners.

I sit,
trapped and strung out,
between Mum and Dad;
two thieves
stealing my youth.

Mum elbows me
And I tumble back to reality
joining in with the end of the creed:

We look for the resurrection of the dead
And the life of the world to come

Your thoughts?