The Ambassador of the Interior Has a Talking to With the Minister of the Cabinet of Vengeance
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.”
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 substances—hormones, oxytocin, which is the hormone that your body produces in response to love—and 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.