A Simple Slave
By Bart Phillips
Life was simpler as a slave
Doing only my unseen master’s will,
Devoting all my efforts to his work,
Trusting enigmatic promises made to me
More than a hundred generations ago
In foreign tongues no longer spoken.
“Sacred” texts of spurious origin
Tell me that I am truly loved—
They say that I am worthless, too!
They say that I can be truly free—
They tell me, too, I must yield myself
To take up my “cross” and dumbly follow.
What kind of man would chose to make himself a slave?
How big a fool seeks wisdom for his life in ancient myth?
How silly is the notion that ages past found deeper truths?
Are love and purpose found in succumbing to a “jealous god”?
I refuse forever to be a simple slave
Forsaking the only thing I rightly own:
My limited life on this natural world.
No more! I claim myself for me,
To give my life and love to those I chose,
To live for what my reason says is right.
The Voice Inside By Bart S. Phillips
I once believed the voice inside my head was God.
I once believed the voice in me that said
That taking things that are not mine is wrong,
That hitting and hurting others is wrong,
That saying things which are not true is wrong—
That simple voice was God.
But the voice said many other things as well:
That torture and slavery are savagely wrong,
That subjugating women is inhumanly wrong,
That building gilded shrines and lavish temples
While children suffer and starve is heartlessly wrong.
What voice was this?
This voice inside my head also cried out
That punishing people for working on a “holy day”
Or for having sex with someone they love
Or for denying belief in unbelievable things—
These punishments are undeniably wrong.
Was this a different voice?
I once turned to that voice to decide my path,
To tell me what I should live for,
To tell me what I must oppose,
To tell me who to marry, where to live, what to do—
I tried to pledge myself entirely to that voice.
At that, the voice seemed suddenly silent.
So what is this voice inside my head
That speaks in the accent of my ancestors,
That encourages me when I struggle,
That chides me when I come up short,
That dares me to question and to reason,
That compels me to be better, to know more, to grow?
I once believed the voice inside my head was God,
But now I recognize that voice
As it enunciates my humanity,
That voice of intellect, of passion and compassion, of imagination—
That voice is no one else’s.
That voice is humbly, proudly, simply…me.