THE GODS WE WORSHIP LIVE NEXT DOOR Bienvenido Santos The gods we worship live next door. They’re brown and how easily they catch cold sneezing too late into their sleeves and brandishing their arms in air. Fear grips us when they frown as they walk past our grim deformities dragging with them the secret scent of love bought by the ounce from gilded shops above the rotunda of the bright cities. In the cold months of fog and heavy rains our gods die one by one and caskets golden are borne on the hard pavements at even down roads named after them, across the plains where all gods go. Oh, we outlive them all, but there are junior gods fast growing tall. In the following poem, we see how the rich people (gods) oppress the poor people (persona). The poor people are portrayed as inferior to the rich people, as can be inferred from the lines, “Fear grips us when they frown as they walk past our grim deformities…” It is ironic, however, that the gods are living next door when they are supposedly in heaven. This just shows that the gods are not really gods—they are sickly, brown, and mortal. They are metaphors for people who are well-off. This poem reminds me of the Spanish colonization in the Philippines. Social classes were formed to separate the wealthy from the poor, and the Spaniards from the Filipinos. The discrimination was evident in the way the Spaniards treated us—with disgust and an air of superiority. They had the power and money to do anything they wanted. On the other hand, we should try not to be like them. We know that we posses more than what others have; but the more we have, the more is expected from us. We should use what we have to help others; not to dominate. They are humans too, like us. This just shows that the gods are not really gods—they are sickly, brown, and mortal. They are metaphors for people who are well-off. The Gods We Worship Live Next Door is a poem that demonstrates an ambiguous reality of its subject and theme. By using the contrastive symbol of “gods” with human attributes, this literary piece displays the indefinite representation of a particular message that can be revealed by classifying the basic conflicts that surround the text itself. For this purpose, it is significant to evaluate the specific lines highlighting distinct implications and find out how their conflicts can lead to a better understanding of the poem. Why would the gods die during the cold months and how come they die one after another? A most likely answer to these questions may be that the cold season may be a metaphor for the golden age of life of most people, the same rendering of the metaphor for the “gods” as prominent people. While these “gods’ have come to the conclusions of their lives, the last line implies that the younger gods are ready to take over what are left by their elders. The offspring will eventually replace these old “gods’ to be the new “gods” themselves, taking the same stance as their forefathers on the eyes of the common people. In conclusion, the “gods” presented in the poem are indeed the prominent people. Being prominent in terms of material abundance could have been the weightier reason that they are rendered as “gods”: their wealth has made them so powerful. Thus, society, including the poet, looks up to them as the elite and adores them as beautiful beings wielding enormous power no ordinary humans can commit. Yet, the fact that they are vulnerable to diseases and succumb to death during cold season (itself an archetype for the latter phase of life, old age) does not really separate them from the rest of humanity. It is, thus, possible to say that the poem relays the underlying reality in the lives of these prominent people in the ways that society regard of them, and how they realistically end their lives. They are gods in their own way in that they are wealthy and are politically powerful, yet nature still takes its course and their humanity is overwhelmed by the natural. Even the roads that are named after them or the golden caskets that house their remains would not be significant in indicating any feature of actual immortality. These things are apparently only symbols of the false resemblance of immortality, signifiers of something that is falsely regarded and deceptive as the supposed godliness of men. The golden caskets and roads named after them are supposedly meant to perpetuate their memories and names in the minds of ordinary people for their distinct existences and contributions to society, yet in the end they turn out to be a reminder, an ironic symbol of man’s fallibility and eventual demise. The poem implies, furthermore, that while the prominent people have become distinct individuals from the rest of humankind by means of their material and political status, their actual attributes do not actually fit to be equated with that of a god. God/s in contrast to humans are infallible and immortal. The true God/s neither require any artificiality to highlight their divinity or for their names to be perpetuated by their descendants nor do they need any legitimate social recognition to be elevated and venerated as divine beings. They are identified through the faith of their worshippers justifying their power and presence on earth. Overall, the poem reminds the readers of the natural course of existence of all human beings, whether great or small, “gods” or mere mortals. The reality remains that all humanity is bound to its demise, regardless of the cycle of transitions as emphasized by the last line in the poem. Death becomes an important issue in this poem, as it does not only signify separation of the spiritual and the physical but even far greater than that as it rather binds all created beings as part of the realm of mortality. Death even more becomes a paradoxically essential aspect of anyone’s existence and the tie that binds one person with the rest of humanity.