The West Borough of Eden
Some years ago
was all the rage
I watched one with
and ever since
Fred Phelps has been
a fascinating man to me,
him and his twisted family.
The loving rictus on
his grandchild’s face as she -
a girl in her late teens, I think -
raked leaves in the yard
and tried to convince the BBC
with a smile that must
have been painful
that she was happy there.
The little boy holding a sign
a sign describing anal sex,
pelted with a milkshake by
a passing motorist.
Not understanding why
a grown up would be so cruel,
and crying a bit as mom cleans him...
...and gives him back the sign.
The man himself, Pastor.
Fred Phelps in his papal robes:
a trouser suit and cowboy hat.
Pointing at picnic tables and
ranting that homos do it there.
Sad and funny, funny and sad.
The lynchpin, of course, the original sin,
Fred Phelps the ghoul of God Hates Fags.
What inner torment makes a man
devote his life to esoterica?
To a single sin, of millions?
Even Pat Robertson
and other televangelists
picked on single parents too,
pagans or Jews or what-have-you.
Too easy, it’d be, to give simple answers.
That he was gay, for example, is just
the kind of lazy thought that in itself
is phobic of “the gays” (“that hateful bunch! Hating even their own kind!”). Apparently, in his last years, he tried
to save his family by walking back (a bit)
his hate. They replied by letting him
die alone. Maybe what he realised, then,
was this: that whomever you love
and whomever you hate, to dedicate
the generations of your seed to living
in the land of Nod, east of Eden, outside
God, will always be a greater sin.
Or maybe, in the last account,
he was just fed up with hate.