Remarks by Jessie Beagle

Photo by Craig Reubens
Photo by Craig Reubens

Jessie Beagle: I’m uh– Well, I go by many names, sometimes referred to Dorothy, Jessie Beagle, but father of my beautiful son who died in Jonestown, Joseph Leo Helle, or we called him Joel, I’m not sure what he was called. Sometimes– Once he adopted Mrs.– Mr. Beam, and he was Joel Beam. But anyway, I want to read– I am a poet among other writings and compositions. “Guyana, the Enchanted Jungle” is the title of this. And it was after seeing a famous sculptor’s Christ. De Staebler is the sculptor’s name– Can you hear me? Can you hear me?

Crowd: Yes.

Jessie Beagle: De Staebler had this sculpture in a church– the uh, student, St. John’s Church near Dwight Way in Berkeley. And I’m not religious, I went with a friend of mine, who was very glad to sit there, I think it was two years after 1978, and I certainly had one thought in my mind. (Pause) This is called “Guyana, the Enchanted Jungle.”

Part I

De Staebler – that is the name of the sculptor – De Staebler’s Christ I looked upon,
Not– not to pray, but in memory of my son, Joel.
I’m not seeing it right.
I looked upon,
Not to pray, but in memory of my son, Joel
Who with 900 friends and more
Died in a faraway land
Jonestown, Guyana
Jonestown massacre
Jonestown, the Promised Land
And looking on this maverick Christ
Who wore no crown of thorns
Whose flesh was yellow
I heard again the words that Ishmael, my friend
Spoke on that November day.
I had a vision he was a great artist and a religious man
I had a vision
I saw your son Joel lifted gently upward
By two beautiful white doves

Part II

Distabler’s Christ
Controversial, like the master
Not accepted, the Catholic Church said
Too unique
A priest whispering in my ear as he left amused, smiling
Did you know quite– I just can’t see the words– Okay
Leaving, the priest said to me, did you know– he said smiling amused
The artist created Jesus in the way that he was outlawed
At first not permitted in any church
For he was created, a sort of yellowish color
And no crown of thorns
As shown at the point of ascension