From poet Jeff Gundy: “When Madonna Met Menno”

We do have a poetry category and I thought I’d invite it out of the dusty corner to join us for a little conversation today with Mennonite poet, Jeff Gundy. I’ll open the space by sharing a poem of his, a bit of a story from him to go with it and then a chance to ask him questions in the comments.

When Madonna Met Menno

“You’re a slut,” he said, “but God loves you anyway.”
She took a long pull on her beer. “Don’t be simple,”
she said. “I was a Catholic schoolgirl. I’ve known that
since I was twelve.” She was all knees and ankles,

and he was a river toad, the two of them crammed
into a tiny booth among the hard-drinking yuppies.
“Besides, I’ve got babies now,” she said, “and all that
whore stuff was for sales anyway.” “I know what you mean,”

said Menno. “Most of my whoring was for the Church,
but I think I gave it up too soon.” He took an even
longer pull on his beer. “I did a lot of brooding
about the Blessed Mary back then,” he said. “I decided

that Jesus slide out of her like a seed through a tube.
She was just a vase for the beautiful flower.” “What a load,”
said Madonna. “Mary was Jesus, and he was her, too.”
“Yeah, I’ve been wrong before,” said Menno. “You want

a basket of fries, another beer?” They could feel the subway
underneath them, a heavy snake hauling another wave
of puzzled souls from there to elsewhere. “No,” she said,
“the kids will be home. Time to cross the river.”

From Spoken among the Trees, 2007

Do you have questions about Anabaptist and Mennonite poetry? Leave a comment and we’ll see if we can get Jeff (or other BeccaJayne or other poets) to come by and answer.

Here’s what Jeff told me about how “When Madonna Met Menno” came to be:

I wrote it as my own response to an assignment I gave my poetry class: to put a living person and a long-dead one in conversation. There were some other rules, including certain words, like “river,” that they were supposed to use. No sooner did I say OK, let’s see what happens and get out my own pen than I thought about Madonna and Menno–and then the first line came right to me. the other key, I think, was imagining that they were quite at ease with each other, not hostile or defensive, just having an open, free conversation.

Finally, for all you YAR trivia buffs out there who are keeping score, Menno’s Divine Flesh theology came up once before here on this blog, 7 years ago: YAR Madlib – Calling the church to go pee pee.

Comments (3)

  1. Mark Nielsen

    Holy Mother of Me, Batman. This rocks! Thanks Jeff, and thanks Tim and/or others for getting it out there. I’ve done a blog post or two over the years giving an enthused shout-out (or appalled shout-down) to Madonna, Lady Gaga and their ilk. But never poetically. I have a picture burned in my brain now… something prose seldom can do quite this well.

  2. Jeff Gundy

    Thanks, Mark! I’ve never exactly been a Madonna fan, but have developed a certain appreciation for her savvy. And while Menno was undoubtedly a great man, I’ve never been able to take that “celestial flesh” thing seriously. Of course, my versions of both of them are entirely fictional and bear no intended relation to any person(s) living or dead who might sue me.

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