joseph coats

3

Gregory Allen Barnes (left) was a columbine massacre survivor, but shortly after, hung himself in his garage with an electrical cord while listening to Adam’s Song by Blink 182 on repeat. On May 4th 2000 he took his own life after struggling with the depression and aftermath of witnessing the murder of William David Sanders (middle) and his friend, Matthew Joseph Kechter (right), at Columbine High School.

We’ll Never Be Truly Free

(Tw for Henry Laurens manipulating the Bible and being a homophobic jerk!!! Wanna read the first three chapters? Here you go!)

CHAPTER FOUR: Between the sinners and the saints

“Remember Bible School?”

John was seated at the kitchen table, the informal one he and his sister typically ate at, most nights without their father. His younger sister, Martha, was seated across from him, on the side of the table that had a bench instead of chairs. John remembered how they used to lie down on it during rounds of hide-and-seek with their parents when they were younger. They thought it was the best hiding spot ever.

Martha looked like she wished she could hide there right now.

Henry Laurens was seated at the head of the table, hands folded and placed atop the woven placemat in front of him. There was a serene look on his face. If John didn’t know his father’s stance on weed (“it’s the devil’s plant!”) he would’ve sworn his father was high.

“Of course,” John said after a tense few seconds of silence passed between the three of them.

“What are some Bible stories you two remember from those days?”

John knew something was up. His father never asked them questions just to get to know them. Or at least he didn’t anymore. John knew there was an alterative motive–– he just wasn’t sure of what it was yet.

“‘Jonah and the Whale!’” Martha offered.

John smiled. That had been Martha’s favorite story as a child. I want to go in a whale’s belly, she’d told John. John had been too wooed by her cuteness to tell her what the story was really about.

“Moses and the Israelites fleeing Egypt,” John said with much less enthusiasm.

“Joseph and the Coat of Many Colors,” Martha added.

“The Prodigal Son,” John said with a smirk.

Their father looked as if he wanted to say something to John about that last one, but Martha thankfully saved him with another title.

“Noah’s Ark!” She exclaimed.

Another favorite of hers. She’d even had a Noah’s ark playset, carved from the wood of trees that were (supposedly) from the Holy Land. John wondered where his parents had ever found such a thing, and who had ever decided to make it in the first place.

“Good, good,” their father said, holding up his hands as if to silence them.

John hated that it worked.

“There is one that they probably didn’t tell you,” Henry said, expression still serene, but considerably more solemn. “Have you ever heard the story of Sodom and Gomorrah?”

John froze. Martha, only ten, still so pure and innocent, shook her head no and looked at their father expectantly.

John hated him right now. He hated that he was going to tell Martha such awful things. He hated that he was going to have to hear them. He hated that their father was using the fact that he rarely interacted with his children to draw them, or at least Martha, further and further in. She obviously craved his attention, and Henry, of course, knew that.

“Well, let me tell it to you,” he said with an eerie smile. He looked at John. “Do you know this story?”

John could feel the malice, the challenge, behind his father’s words. “Yes,” John said, not caring to keep the bitterness from his voice any longer.

“Then perhaps you would like to tell it?”

John narrowed his eyes at his father. If he wanted to play it like this, then, by god, they would play it like this.

“Sure,” John said. He cleared his throat and looked at Martha, making sure to smile and use a lighter, more lilting tone for her sake. “Sodom and Gomorrah is a story from the Old Testament, from Genesis.”

“That’s the one with Adam and Eve!” Martha said, excited to know something about this story already.

“Yeah, it sure is,” John said, the smile on his face hurting something deep inside him, like maybe his soul.

If you even have one of those still, a voice in his head snickered.

“So in the story, the people of Sodom and Gomorrah are doing bad things. Naughty things,” John continues, pulling out his best storyteller voice. “And God is very angry with them.”

“What were they doing?” Martha asks, brown eyes wide.

“They were being inhospitable to their guests,” John said. He saw his father tense out of the corner of his eye, so he continued on before he could stop him. “They were being very rude to the people who were visiting them from other places, and God didn’t like that.”

“So what’d he do?” Martha asked, her voice a curious whisper.

“He struck them and all but one other city surrounding them and burned them to the ground.”

“But all those people!” Martha exclaimed.

“They were sinners, Martha,” Henry interjected. “And your brother left out a vital part of that story; a part that explains just why God was so harsh and swift in his judgement of the people of Sodom and Gomorrah.”

“What was it?” Martha asked, looking back and forth between John and their father.

“Finish the story, John,” Henry demanded.

John thought about resisting. He thought about playing dense, claiming not to know it. But his father would know that was a lie. His father would see right through it, and the consequences would be much worse.

Still, these words pained him. How many dreams he had had about their house burning around them, fiery wooden beams falling, crushing Martha, trapping him.

“So of the people in the city were engaging in… sinful behavior.” The word hurt him. It hurt him so badly.

“What was it?” Henry prompted his son.

“Men were loving men,” John said. “In a way that is unnatural. In a way that is an insult to God.”

“That’s right,” Henry said with a stark nod.

Martha’s eyes were wider than John had ever seen them.

“So we have a new lesson to add to our repertoire today, kids,” Henry said as if they’d just finished some fun activity. “Love is between a man and a woman. Anything else––” He looked John in the eye. “Anything else is a sin.”

RISE UP AND RESPOND: WEEK FOUR 

This week’s activity to counter-act the awful things the Trump Administration is doing is perfect for all you writers out there. Here’s all you’ve got to do!

1) Get a post card.
2) Write a note to Trump about a policy of his you disagree it. Make it personal, make it political, make it a combo of both–– just let him know how this is hurting you and those you care about.
3) Mail that post card to President Donald Trump / 1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW / Washington, DC 20500
4) Have a lot of issues with Trump? Write and mail as many cards as your heart desires! ;)

Get writing, kiddos, and feel free to submit pics of the cards you write to me so we can share it with the fam! <333 Stay strong and keep fighting! We’re gonna defeat him as long as we do it together <333

Fun fact: Asriel is a legitimately normal Hebrew name and not just a possible allusion to an angel of death with the same name or “Azazel” a ritualistic scapegoat.

Numbers 26:31 records one of the decedents of Joseph (the Joseph that had the coat of many colors and prophetic dreams) being named Asriel and his family branch being called the Asrielites.

(Also Ephraim is one of Joseph’s sons, so if you are an Undertale and Fire Emblem nerd you can get away with naming two of your hypothetical sons those names)

March 11, 1917 - Fall of Baghdad

Pictured - Maude enters the city of the caliphs.

The Allied war against the Turks had swung favorably. British and Imperial forced gained momentum at the beginning of 1917, overrunning Ottoman outposts near Gaza and then, in Mesopotamia, the ancient Persian capital of Ctesiphon. The ultimate objective of Britain’s Palestine campaign was Jerusalem, on March 11 they completed another historic victory to the east when Baghdad fell.

The last Turkish defenders, under Khalil Pasha, evacuated the city that day, ceding it to 45,000 triumphant British and Indian troops, who entered the city with General Maude riding at their head. German officers blew up the radio station before they left, although the British did capture six brand new airplanes, freshly delivered to the Turks.

The Imperial soldiers entering the ancient city received a bewildering reception: “Persians dressed like Joseph in long silken coats of many colours; red-fezzed oriental Jews in misfit European clothing; handsome Armenian refugees who had spent the night huddled in Christian churches, fearful of their fate if any of the fleeing Turks learned of their existence; lordly turbaned Muslims in black flowing robes - all turned out to cheer them as they tramped in through the Southern Gate. It was a gala display a fiesta - something that had not taken place when Townshend’s men had tottered painfully through the same streets.” Townshend’s forces had been captured at Kut the year before and led on a painful death march to Anatolia, where those who survived still languished.

Englishmen ignorant of history must have been astounded by the city, but others far off reckoned the symbolic value of their victory. “That’s the end of the German dream of domination in the Near East,” recorded British orientalist Gertrude Bell. “Their place is not going to be in the sun.”

Revisionist Histories

I

…and so the boat people watched the sky for signs of rain.  Stories of old floods found their way around the ship as the wind circled around loose clothing and torn sails. In the crow’s nest a disheveled man with a torn tricorn praying for land, and below, prisoners and slaves in rat infested rooms waiting for hunger to take them or the gods of their land to come back and reclaim the withering flesh that at one time had worshiped in the sun, and sent offerings from fire in scented smoke.

Columbus watched the sun break into a thousand shards upon the water’s face. He dreamed of a holy conquest.  God’s blessing was to him a golden key to these new Indies.  King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella appeared in the pocket of clouds above the ship like proud parents.  

The rain descended upon the ships and waves broke at the sides. The telescopes were turned inward and Columbus dreamed of a new place named for his rival—Americo Vespucci. Columbus dreamed of dolls and gods buried deep in the hearts of churches and great devastations of humanity raped and pillaged, holding on to the old gods disguised as Christ.

Americo, in the name of all that is money, bowed before great trees bearing bananas and plantains, he could smell the ocean on his breath and the people on his hands.  

II

Listen, the people wailing jeremiads into the wind until the storm clouds of god grew grim and brought the sky down in hail stones and there was much gnashing of teeth. Above the clouds American fighter pilots joked and read radar screens diffused with light. American broadcasts sang of the homeland and anarchy and craterous dreams of homecoming.

In the sky the arch-angel Michael, perched himself on a cumulonimbus and began reciting the psalms: By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion. We hanged our harps upon willows in the midst thereof.

On a Nimbostratus next to him, Lucifer accompanied on the harp. The fighter jets whooshed beneath him.

If you listen, Michael told Lucifer, you could hear their prayers. Lucifer let out a single tear that fell like napalm and lit the earth beneath him.

I’m tired of the gnashing of souls and the cries of the despised and despaired.  I was truly hoping for a new dispensation, he said.

it wasn’t really part of the plan, Michael said, puzzled.

Because I would not kneel to those who made a monster of me?  I only remember millenniums now through degrees of pain.

Michael turned slowly, his wings drooping against the setting sun, I have a place in my heart for you.

Lucifer smiled, but there are no places like that left, he said, almost angrily.  

Michael remains silent.  Lucifer lets another tear fall.  The pilots cheer from their cockpits.  

 III

Slowly, as if the noise were creeping up to the top steps like auditory insects, Joseph placed his coat on the bed.  His brothers had wished for a coat like his. When he wore it he thought he could hear the voice of god.  The pigeons outside his window spoke in soft coos of indifference and the cars on 42nd street rushed down 10th avenue. In two hours he would be at the port authority and on his way to Memphis.  The sun poured through his window.  Joseph counted the money in his jeans.  Thirty-seven dollars and fifty two cents.  But he had the coat.

Staring into a mirror, its polyester dazzled him.  He imagined angels. He watched a man wrestling an angel through the night and heard the name Israel whispered from the heat pipes.  He saw great pharaohs and great cities buried in the sand.

Slipping on his sneakers and taking a last shot of whiskey, he shut the door of his hotel room, Rebecca, still sleeping, fifty dollars by her breast.  

 IV

Through the flames, Joan of Arc feels the presence of an angel. She looks up towards the sky. The men stand around her spitting, cursing, imagining her breasts naked in the moonlight and blaming such thoughts on the devil, who will burn with her naked breasts. Joan smiles. She smells the burning of her flesh. Her tears sizzle on her cheeks and rise in puffs of smoke and light. She no longer feels her legs.

Joan of Arc hears the cursing of the men in the background. She no longer inhabits their hell. Marilyn Monroe hands her a wooden bowl filled with water, everyone is cursed, she says, it’s OK, you’re good now.

Joan holds back tears by staring at her reflection in the bowl. She can smell her hair burning.  Marilyn watches the sticks grow flames from burning embers.  Joan counts her fingers and toes.  They can’t see god, Marilyn says, so they make everyone the devil. Joan smells her hands.  They smell like burnt logs.

 Joan of Arc and Marilyn Monroe walk along a road into the sunset.  I heard god before I died, Joan confessed, he said there would be no crying here.  I didn’t recognize the voice.

Marilyn looks at her smiling, I’ve been looking for a way through for a long time.

Where do we go now, Joan asks.

To a city in the moon, where the wounds of this world become stars.

 

V

Helen of Troy sits on the shore. She dreams of being abducted. She dreams of Paris’ hands; his eyes.

I would’ve loved him better, Alice says.  She is sitting on a rock drawing pictures of walruses and carpenters.

his love wasn’t real love.

–tell me again about the big horse, Alice finds a shell and traces it with her finger, I’ll tell you about wonderland and all the wonderful ways to alter one’s perceptions.

–Herodotus says the poets lied about me you know.

–What does he know?

–It hurt for centuries.  Men still read Herodotus.

 Alice places a cup of water on the beach.

–I can catch the moon in a glass of water.  This way I can visit it anytime I want.

–I’ve heard many strange stories about the moon.  Of cities more plentiful than Troy, with more riches than Persia.

–Oh pooh. Tell me again about the horse.

Helen thinks again about how men hated her, as if wars were ever really fought for beauty or love.

–I look at you Alice and think you could be my child, or you could be me.

–we are forever looking into our own reflection.

–If you love me then I can learn to love myself.  Then, these ships you see before you will sail away, without ever spilling blood.

–They’ll spill blood anyway.  Sit with me. Look at the moon with me. I will grow to trust you.