What is the devil?

 

What is the devil, y’say? What AIN’T the devil, should be sayin’. Why, the devil’s all things good ‘n’ light ‘n’ warm…’n’ cold ‘n’ bitter ‘n’ hard…’n’ sweet ‘n’ soft ‘n’ sublime…’n’ short ‘n’ clammy ‘n’ vile… Tender ‘n’ tough. Bread ‘n’ bile. Cruel ‘n’ kind. The devil’s the world we live in, folks—the very fabric of our material lives. Y’live ‘im, y’breathe ‘im, y’marry ‘im, y’are ‘im. Every thing that is not god—is not “ascended”…is him. Remember that, folks, ’cause be you sub or shoe or plane or ship, in ‘is eyes, we’re all sittin’ sea level. ‘N’ so’s the devil.

When y’pick up a baby, tell me, what do y’see? Y’see eyes? New life? That’s kinda a momma’s way o’ seein’ things. What about a scientist? Maybe they see cells ‘n’ some dials—a lottery o’ code been spun ‘n’ styled. Maybe just plain ol’ inevitability…given a while…

But what about god? What’s ‘e see? ‘E don’t see eyes. ‘E don’t see no dial. No, sirree. ‘E sees the same thing’d walked into Eden ‘n’ made Great Grandmomma walk out: the devil. ‘Cause you’s here ‘n’ he’s up there, ‘n’ everything that ain’t there…with him…chose wrong—chose the devil. ‘N’ y’be what you choose around here.

Now I ain’t sayin’ you’s be stuck like this, stuck ‘ere with me ‘n’ yer grandmommas ‘n’ yer grandpapas ‘n’ alls them kids—the lord’s kids, been stuck in “time out” since beginnin’ o’ time—but I am sayin’ that, y’want out, y’want up there, free o’ this mess, like J.C…y’gotta pray. Y’gotta pray damn hard. ‘Cause yer voice gotta be louder’n thy world, thy god, the devil, ‘n’ the devil’s got no plans to go quietly.

—Lionel