Pro Deo, contra ecclesia ………….Fidei Corticula Crux


These Crosses are quite various in kind:
the ones the Romans punished with were wood,
but others have been precious metals, shined
by priests with polish, symbolizing good.
There’s one which, on its side, looks like an X,
and symbolizes Scotland’s Saint Andrew.
Another stays the vampire with its hex,
though many think that simply can’t be true.

The Cross Impotens, with its crutch-like ends,
stands for St. Philip and St. Anthony—
yes, both, disabled, share a single Cross,
but, being saints, I doubt if either minds.
The Greek is lengthened, centered equally.
I think it mostly symbolizes loss.


What symbolizes baptizing in water?
An anagram in Greek, ichthus, or fish,
for Jesous Christos, Theou Uios Soter,
or Jesus Christ, the son of God, our Saviour.
When seen in Christian settings, make a wish
to have a happy life in which to live
(which Torquemadas never can forgive,
so don’t let church spies notice your behaviour).

St. Peter was a fisherman, they say,
and one day caught a sole and then another
and soon his bobbing boat was full of fish.
All soles, he said, are one another’s brother
(most women were excluded in his day),
and, rinsing it with wine, he cleaned his dish.


The Lion’s an emblem of Jerome, the hermit,
used to denote his death, and deaths of others
as martyrs in the Roman amphitheatre.
Nero did not have any need of permit
to throw these Christians to the lions. Mothers
would wail while watching in loud keening plaints,
but some would not let drop one little tear
for certain knowledge that their sons were saints.

It was a joyful day for them, to see
the lion’s tooth transfix transfiguration.
Caligula and Nero were not gods
but did His work without their knowledge. He
made instruments of them, against all odds.
Death is God’s mode of reinvigoration.


The Peacock stands for immortality.
“The spirit passes from this life to more
and better life to come,” supposedly.
The impress of the moment on the mind
may be as much as one will ever find
of depth and length in life and space and time,
and so much then for all fatality.
We may have seen the best life has in store.

The Peahen waits the Peacock’s grand display
(she nearly always finds that it’s enough
his immortality has come her way).
Perhaps the reason’s in the thousand eyes
that like a strange horizon hypnotize
and egg her always on to call his bluff.


The Dove denotes the purity of woman,
whatever that can mean beyond her love.
Well, I suppose it’s something far above
what I can think of when I think as human,
and not as someone supernatural,
my mind an impure thing, half-animal,
incapable of knowing purity,
but not, I hasten, without sympathy.

The Dove is symbol of the Holy Spirit
and also of all females saintly dead.
I wonder how it is that we inherit
through Patriarchs unmerciful, rock-hard,
this image of unwomanly white love,
seeing instead of woman, bird—a Dove!


The Dragon stands for evil, sin, or Satan,
denoting how we fell before we stood
on our hind legs inside that scarey wood
that we remember now as Garden Eden,
a paradise and snakepit all at once;
and conquest over paganism, too,
as when “St. George the dreadful dragon slew,”
as when he proved that dragon was a dunce.

(St. Michael, too, was made extremely tense
by legless serpents and their fiery kin.)
Once, snakes were at the water for a drink,
as if the mild oasis were their sink
and not the desert paradise of men,
when stones of primates taught them better sense.


Begin with sacrifice: an offering
made by all races, usually in youth;
made by the pagans as they groped for truth;
made by the primitive; a proffering
of something that we have for what we want;
almost of Isaac by good Abraham,
whose homeopathic magic was quite blunt;
also by Aztecs till the Spanish came.

Would Christ approve of such insanity
more than he would approve the rack or rod?
But publicists must make their stories tall,
and Saul it was, who, turning into Paul,
made sacrifice of Christ, the “Lamb of God,”
the centerpiece of Christianity.


The human race is richly blessed,
for it’s at liberty to choose
the path above the dark forest

where it evolved from small tree shrews.
When we were young, in those dark ages
when trees were gods, we could refuse

our few objective pilgrimages
their bright discoveries forthwith.
We’d stronger gods and images

of potency surpassing truth.
It wasn’t innocence we had
but ignorance, like any youth.

And ignorance of good and bad
we can’t equate with innocence,
for ignorance is something sad

and innocence is happy; hence,
that Eden Garden written of
to show our disobedience

could not have been a place of love.
Nor did the ignorant within
(whose bodies fitted hand-in-glove)

deserve God’s angriest chagrin
for plucking knowledge from the tree.
How was their action any sin
in seeking knowledge, lovingly?

About E.M. Schorb

E.M. Schorb has published several collections of poetry. Time and Fevers is a 2007 recipient of an Eric Hoffer Award for Excellence in Independent Publishing. Another collection, Murderer's Day, was awarded the Verna Emery Poetry Prize and published by Purdue University Press. His poetry has appeared in: The Sewanee Review, Southwest Review, The Yale Review, The Chicago Review, Carolina Quarterly, The Virginia Quarterly Review, The American Scholar, Stand (England), and the New York Quarterly, among others. And, I’m happy to add, The Eloquent Atheist.


Symbols — 1 Comment

  1. Beautiful poem. I’ve often thought about the lamb sacrifices myself, and wondered how God could approve.
    I liked the last section ‘Tracts’ best. Why would God tease his children, ‘look but don’t touch’?

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