Audio

The Ambassador of the Interior Has a Talking to With the Minister of the Cabinet of Vengeance

February 4, 2019

Stephanie Ellis Schlaifer: I’m Stephanie Ellis Schlaifer, and this is PoetryNow. This poem is part of a series that explores the bureaucracy of the mind. I imagine the brain as being composed of a collection of government officials that control specific aspects of the psyche. The origin of this piece was imagining the part of your self that reacts strongly to an insult or an injury. If you imagine the West Wing of your head on a bad news day, where someone has offended the president, and imagine the bustle of that space, all of that has come to a head when the Minister of the Cabinet of Vengeance declares that she’s going to go out and start a war. Here, the Ambassador of the Interior comes to intervene to stop what she feels is an unnecessarily explosive move on the part of the Minister of the Cabinet of Vengeance. This is someone walking into your office, pointing their finger at your nose saying, “sit back down, you’re not starting anything now.”

(READS POEM)

The Ambassador of the Interior Has a Talking to with the Minister of the Cabinet of Vengeance
 
God started small                     At the first showdown
between good and evil       God didn’t come at anyone

like a cowboy       God didn’t open with solar flares
or asteroids       or mass extinction           or planetary heat death
 
God didn’t outgun anyone               God outmanned them
God made man        in the face of the beast
 
And in the face of the beast      God made     —from inside
the great and gaping maw         while languishing
 
in the hot damp                           In the face of that
great terror          God summoned the smallest—
 
adrenaline        serotonin         hemoglobin        oxytocin         motes
of possibility      God started by making—
 
light into land masses      sand into vessels       preservation
as civilization   and sometimes    God won

* * *

This poem invokes God to put things into perspective for the Minister of the Cabinet of Vengeance. You’re not God, and even God wouldn’t do that. God has the power to do all of these things and doesn’t.

(QUOTING FROM POEM)

. . . God summoned the smallest— / adrenaline        serotonin hemoglobin oxytocin    motes / of possibility

I thought of these human substanceshormones, oxytocin, which is the hormone that your body produces in response to loveand how much power those things have.

Katie Klocksin: That was Stephanie Ellis Schlaifer and her poem “The Ambassador of the Interior Has a Talking to With the Minister of the Cabinet of Vengeance.” I’m Katie Klocksin and this is PoetryNow, a production of The Poetry Foundation. For more about this series, go to poetryfoundation.org/poetrynow.

Stephanie Ellis Schlaifer imagines the prospect of a God who may have created humanity in order to battle evil.

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