Religious Instruction

By Mina Loy 1882–1966 Mina Loy
This misalliance
follows the custom
for female children
To adhere to maternal practices

While the atheist father presides over   
the prattle of the churchgoer
with ironical commentary    from his arm-chair

But by whichever
religious route
to brute
reality
our forebears speed us

There is often a pair
of idle adult
accomplices in duplicity
to impose upon their brood

an assumed acceptance   
of the grace of God
defamed as human megalomania

seeding the Testament
with inconcievable chastisement

and of Christ
who
come with his light
of toilless lilies
To say “fear
not   it is I”
wanting us to be fearful

He who bowed the ocean tossed   
with holy feet
which supposedly dead

are suspended over head   
neat-
ly crossed in anguish   
wounded with red
varnish

From these
slow-drying bloods of mysticism   
mysteriously
the something-soul emerges   
miserably

and instinct (of economy)   
in every race
for reconstructing debris   
has planted an avenging face   
in outer darkness

              . . .

The lonely peering eye   
of humanity
looked into the Néant   
      and turned away

              . . .

Ova’s consciousness
impulsive to commit itself to justice   
—to arise and walk
its innate     straight way
out of the
accidence of circumstance—

collects the levitate chattels   
of its will and makes for the   
magnetic horizon of liberty   
with the soul’s foreverlasting   
opposition
to disintegration

So this child of Exodus
with her heritage of emigration
often
“sets out to seek her fortune”
in her turn
trusting to terms of literature
dodging the breeders’ determination
not to return “entities sent on consignment”   
by their maker Nature
except in a condition
of moral
effacement

Lest Paul and Peter   
never
notice the creatures   
ever had had Fathers   
and Mothers

They were disgraced in their duty
should such spirits
take an express passage
through the family bodies
to arrive at Eternity
as lovely     as they originally   
promised

So on whatever days
she chose to “run away”
the very
street corners of Kilburn
close in upon Ova
to deliver her
into the hands of her procreators

Oracle of civilization
‘Thou shalt not live by dreams alone   
but by every discomfort
that proceedeth out of
legislation’

Mina Loy, “Religious Instruction” from Lunar Baedeker and Times-Tables (Highlands, NC: Jonathan Williams Publisher, 1958). Copyright 1958 by Mina Loy. Reprinted with the permission of Roger L. Conover for the Estate of Mina Loy.

Source: Lunar Baedeker and Time Tables (The Jargon Society, 1958)

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Poet Mina Loy 1882–1966

SCHOOL / PERIOD Modern

Subjects Faith & Doubt, Religion, Christianity

Poetic Terms Free Verse

 Mina  Loy

Biography

Although born in England, Mina Loy worked as a poet and visual artist in Paris, Florence, and New York City, where her beauty and outlandish behavior shone at the center of several avant-garde circles. The eccentric vocabulary and syntax of Loy’s free-verse poems and their sardonic treatment of love can puzzle and offend, but no reader can question the work’s originality nor the poet’s fierce intelligence.

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Faith & Doubt, Religion, Christianity

SCHOOL / PERIOD Modern

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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