The Sin

Francis Xavier Skinner committed a sin.

It was a big sin, he thought,
A whopper,
An Everest of error,
A mortaller, as the man said,
Thinking of the price he’d have to pay when dead.

Skinner said to himself,
By this sin
I have wounded an innocent God.
I, Francis Xavier Skinner, have offended
The God of love.
That same God
Made everything that has been made.
But I have wounded him.

Skinner, a philosophical chap,
Considered it fit
To congratulate himself
On this extraordinary feat.
I cannot impress my friends, he thought,
But I can wound the God of love.
There’s power for you!

And then he wondered,
What has happened to my sin?
Where has my big sin vanished?
Where have all the sins of the world vanished?
Is there a place where they go to hide?
Where does a fugitive sin reside?
Somewhere in hell perhaps
There’s a sin-hospital
Where all the sins go to recover
From their conflict with God.
Do sins get bored and tired?
Do they play scrabble, ludo, draughts or dominoes?
Do they like to lie on the ground like winos
Outside a church on a Sunday morning
Begging pennies from respectable ladies
Whose souls are wrapped in their coats
Like mackerel in newspaper, their dead eyes
Old coins in the light, yesterday’s news
Garbled in their skin,
Earthquakes shuddering in dandruff?
And then, having rested, do the sins get to their feet,
Amble off into the heart of some poor human
Who’ll commit them all over again, as though for the first time,

Adam how-are-you?
And if one sin hurts God
What does he feel like after a million?
In a pretty bad way, I’d imagine,
Licking his wounds
Stretched on the floor of heaven,
Is there any end to this dammed repetition?
My divine arse is bored
By men who have murdered and lied
And thieves and deceived and whores
Ad nauseam.
I am bored. Therefore, I am.
O for a sin
A sin
That will make my heart leap up to itself
My head spin
Down to You
Until I stand in the morning
Of my first creative excitement
On this dear dung-heap of the world

Thoughtful soul that he wad, Skinner wondered
What did that old excited God
Feel like
After my sin.
That shook him, I bet.
That gave him something to think about.

Did it really,
Did my sin hurt
The maker of the grass and the sea
The giver of my every heartbeat
The sweet creator of light
The image-maker in the dark
The fountain of grace and of truth
The first call of the cock in the morning
The last cry of my frightened mind?
Did my sin really hurt

Now that I think of it
I suspect my creator
May well be amused
By my sin.
Skinner, old son, you’re a laughing-stock,
God smiles on the pleasant morning
Frowns in the storm
And if he ever noticed my sin
He was probably touched by its
Smallness, like a little bitchy insult
In a lost conversation.

I wonder, mused Skinner, is it possible
To be anything other than trivial?
Did I create Hell
To flatter my vanity?
How could any sin of mine
Be worthy of that Hell?
Hell is viciously divine!
Hell has such high standards
Thought it is a low dive
Where all the unsaveable baddies
Get roasted alive.
Is all
My sinning
My own refusal to know
I am small?
Is there a sin
That God respects?
He must have respected Adam,
He threw him out of the garden,
But I won’t imitate Adam.
When a sin is original
Imitation is fatal.
Mortal man is a spit in the wind.
Who cares how mortally he has sinned?

My trouble, said Skinner, is
I’m quite incapable of sin
On a honestly damnable scale.
I’m just another dwarfish vain male,
A puny son-of-a-bitch,
A spiritually juvenile offender.
I’ll pray to my maker
To give me the vision
To commit a significant sin.

Dear God,
Give me the grace
To be a true sinner.

I’ll be grateful forever.

Yours sincerely in Christ,

Francis Xavier Skinner

Guff and muscle, Brendan Kennelly.

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