The Prophet Explains Religion
OK so he don’t look like a prophet but he’s
A real smart old guy. Got a place 
Over a Chinese restaurant on Broadway 
& you got something you want to ask
Just take him some chateau la hooch & go up the back way.
Says PROPHET IS IN on the door.
      Like last night I went he was watching some cop show 
      On tv I ask him man
      My old lady wants me to get religion. Whadda 
     Ya think & he laughs
Religion’s like getting yourself lost in New Jersey 
He says, and shakes his head, like, 
Man, how dumb can you get?
      I think about that. We watch tv a while.
      Then I say I don’t get it & he says 
OK let me explain it like this.
Let’s say you got a nice place on the west side —
      Where I say & he says nineties — nice place by the park 
      & I say how about east nineties & he says 
OK it don’t matter. Anyhow you get in your car & cross 
the George Washington Bridge & drive over to Paramus 
      Man I wouldn’t have no car in this city I say 
He says never mind, you’re rich, you got a car. 
You stay in Paramus a long time, 
& it’s time to go home, so you 
Start to drive but you get turned around 
& you don’t remember how you came 
So you drive around, days & days 
All over Jersey looking for a way to come back. 
      He stopped & watched a Buick 
      Get blown up on tv. The room was real dark — 
      Just one yellow 40-watt bulb & the tube 
      & the wallpaper greasy & 
      The place smelled like burnt won ton. 
      I still didn’t get it & I said is that it & 
He says what? Oh yeah — well 
After a while you’re about to give up 
& quit — maybe just stay in Jersey 
But then you see a road sign that says
I-95 EAST GEORGE WASHINGTON BRIDGE 
      So then I go home I say
& he says No, you stop the car & get out
& bow down to that sign.
You light candles & pray to it &
Stick some flowers on it.
You notice other people praying to other signs  
Like ones that say ROUTE 4 EAST NEW YORK 
& you think they’re screwed up.
You hear about people looking for the Lincoln Tunnel 
& you think they’re more screwed up. 
      So when do I go home I ask 
& he says you don’t so long as you got religion. 
You stay by that road sign & talk 
About how it saved your ass. 
      That’s dumb I say & he laughs 
      Real funny — kind of giggles. 
Yeah he says, I don’t know why 
You’d want a damn fool thing like that. 
      My old lady says it’d be good for me I tell him 
Keeps some people out of trouble he says, 
Makes ’em feel good for a while, but then 
A lot get too stuck & it makes ’em ugly. 
      So Jesus wasn’t for real I say 
Oh yeah Jesus was for real all right says the old man. 
But he wasn’t no god any more than you are —
He was just a man who saw the plain truth 
Saw heaven & earth & everything else 
As clear as I’m seeing you. 
But he tried to tell people how they should go, 
You know, to get back home themselves. 
Tried to show ’em it was right under their noses 
& nobody got it. They thought he meant 
They was supposed to just wait around until he comes 
To take ’em across the river 
Like he was a Jersey Transit bus.
Then they nailed him on a cross. Made 
Another fucking road sign out of him.
      The prophet finished off the bottle. 
      It was getting late — the local news was on the tube. 
      Does go home mean going to heaven I ask 
Sort of he says but you don’t have to be dead 
To get there. Go any time. You just gotta get going 
& you gotta want to go more than you want anything else.
But nobody’s gonna take ya, not even Jesus.
      So why don’t you go I say & he 
      Booms out a big laugh deeper than earth. 
Shit I’m there right now he laughs 
& I laugh too, cause I like the old guy. 
I leave some cash on top of the tv 
Before I go out. I still don’t know 
What he meant about going home but I decided to 
Forget about religion.