Perfect Circle

You were the perfect circle, hammered upon
the anvils of our peasant selves.
You were the desert night, cool points
of stars to our nets and fish and warm lake waves.

We followed you down all the foot-sore roads
north and south, east and west. Birds circled
darkly against the jagged light of noon.
Where the body is, they will gather.

We here have left everything for you,
what's in it for us? And you said, No one
who has given up all for my sake, but will
receive all and more in the kingdom of my Father.

I said I would follow you down, even to death,
but here I am. They broke you, smashed the circle.
You said you'd rise on the third day. I will believe it
when I see it, my Lord of the circle, my Embodied Star.

Breaking News

The controversial Yeshua, a faith healer from the hill
country, was hanged today near the Empire Steet
turnoff, just off Highway 95. Police were called out to
direct traffic and prevent pileups, as people slowed to
catch a glimpse of the charismatic young teacher and healer.
With more on the story, here is WFCK's Brittany Weeks.
Brittany, what can you tell us?

Well, Tom, as you know, it was just five days ago
that Yeshua — he goes by one name — entered DC
in a triumphal parade. He was driven in an open Jeep
down Georgia Avenue to the cheers of thousands.
He was widely revered for his work among the poor and 
homeless, opioid addicts, immigrant groups, woman
and children. But not everyone appreciated him.
Some I talked to in the crowd told me they had heard
news reports that he was a pedophile and that he
associated with prostitutes, far left activists, and terrorists.
He was arrested late yesterday and brought before the
Evangelical Tribunal for Justice on charges of sedition,
corruption, and tax evasion. The Tribunal reached a
unanimous verdict of guilty on all charges at four a.m.
this morning and by noon he was executed.

Back to you, Tom.

Thanks, Brittany, and now with more on how the
weekend weather is shaping up, here's Ashley!

The Sifting of Wheat

I cannot forget what he said:
"Simon, Satan has asked to sift you like wheat."
I am Simon, aka Peter. Please don't call me
'The Rock.' That was Jesus — who always loved

a nickname — getting ahead of himself.
He saw in me things that none of my friends
could see. Things that even I couldn't see.
Things that weren't there. But he was sure.

He was always sure, except for once.
"Who do people say that I am?" he asked.
He was groping for an answer.
So, I blurted out what we were all thinking.
"You're the Messiah!" I said. "You're the Son of God."

We were thinking it, but not with any certainty.
It was a line cast out ahead of us in the hope
that we could drag ourselves upstream
against the current.

Now it's over. He is dead. And we are adrift.
We are huddled like castaways in a boat.
Was it all for nothing, his sufferings, our hopes?
I can go back to fishing. I will always be a fisherman.

First to Leave

We ate a simple meal, bread
dipped in oil, wine, some figs.
It was what we could afford.

Jesus blessed the bread. He tore it
into chunks. We watched.
No one spoke.

"Who is it?" I asked, only because
Peter nudged me. "The one I give
the bread to," Jesus replied.

He handed it to Judas. A drop of oil
glistened on the table and sank
into it. Here and gone.

We did not think it was
the Last Supper. We did
not know ourselves.

Judas left,
and it was night.

Grand Entrance

In the painting by Duccio,
Jesus rides into Jerusalem.
The disciples crowd behind him,
each with his own gold plate
for a halo.

The crowds gesture, astonished,
hands over hearts, pointing to the sky,
arms extended. The elders seethe.
They all have the same face, the face of
the artist's father or his churlish patron
or the master who beat him.

Zaccheus, that wee little man, is up a tree,
jammed between branch and trunk,
looking far ahead for the cops.
The donkey that Jesus rides paces
patiently, her bemused face mirrored
in the foal beside her.

Jesus rides into the city
of ivory towers, turrets, and porticos.
The shouts of the crowd become
the cries of gulls: he is by the shore again,
that night of waves and lightning,
him stepping from peak to trough to peak.
He was strong, then, joyous — lifting and hurling
the storm. "Don't be afraid!" he called out then.

Now, just ahead, there is a bronzed
and tarnished door to a darkness
wide enough to take a man.

He raises a hand: we believe it
to be a blessing.

Three Days

"Joy knows, and Longing has accepted,— 
only Lament still learns . . ." — Rilke

Friday's Lament goes out to the street,
lies down next to the dead child. Lament
claws open her breast. Darkness drops from the sky,
crouches, croaking, over the child. Lament is dumb
with horror; her mouth is a jagged Why?

Saturday's Longing paces the catacombs,
its damp walls glistening. He is an eye
braced wide in the darkness, gathering
possible light. He leans, listening — breath held —
toward the When.

Sunday's Joy trembles, She looks for her assailants
but does not find them. She puzzles at the How.
She touches the warm earth, she laughs!
She throws her arms wide and bows to the heavens.
"We shall dance! I am alive! We are still here."

Two Brothers

Will we ever get away from it,
the words unsaid when loyalty is called for,
the bare loss of breath when doubled over
or the skin ticking past the darkened doorway?
An outthrust arm which grabs the shell in sand,
the stone uncovered that will fill the hand.

The grinding wrongs, capricious, arbitrary.
One favored, one denied by sleight of tongue.
And Abel always with a sideways glance,
smug even in his fear, rocks back upon his heels
from the fist. Brother mine, stand up! Don't spoil
the game we know so well with all your drama.

I could not know you unless we were at odds.
The flash of flint, the friction felt, our small explosions.
Our sandpaper selves will wear each other smooth.
If I had met you in a distant archipelago,
we would have fought at first, no words exchanged,
no quarter given nor expected from a higher code.

Someone asked me once if we were related.
He saw a marked resemblance in the eyes,
the line of jaw, the curl of lip, the coldness
in the smile. "Distantly," I said, but knew
that in the geometric radius of life, you are
the angle without which I'm incomplete.

Luke 8:18

I was trying to work this out:
those with nothing will lose even that.

And the other side: that more
will be given those who have much.

Someone pulled me aside
to whisper, "Use it or lose it, right?"

And their motto: "Those who have, win;
those who don't, won't."

There are people who will tell you
Jesus was the first venture capitalist.

That he desires for us what others sell:
limos, jets, homes and handbags.

But only if you believe irony is dead.
And forget he had no place to lay his head.

Florence in Winter

Jumping down from the train,
map in hand, I felt a lightness in the air
I had not known since Portugal.
The moment glanced up in a reel
made for memories of Florence in winter.

Hunger of three days sharpened my senses;
I became a mouth, a tongue, a feral dog,
tracking by scent and sound. Eyes wide open,
I stepped away from knowing. My breath
unwound, one moment by another.

By the foot of the hill was a little stand
mounded with pears ripely gold, a still life
fragrant with life. A single pear in its fullness
of time bridged body to soul, the juice
spurting down my chin to my hand.

In the softening bruise of New Year's Day,
Maurice Chevalier had died. Near the Ponte Vecchio
I paused as a radio hymned his song:
"Ah yes, I remember it well. . . ."
Oh yes, I remember that well.

Cross of Pain

I never saw his tears, my grandfather.
It wasn't done where he came from.
West Yorkshire men would only turn away.

There was no place for the sudden
stinging in one's eyes, the shudder
in the chest, tightening at the throat.

We were clawing boulders from
the hillside with a mattock and
a crowbar when he faltered,

stodd a moment with the crowbar
in his hand, his hair under his hat
ringed with sweat, his breath a quickened gasp.

That night I heard his footsteps
in another room and from the 
doorway glimpsed him pacing,

each turning in the moonlight
forced a breath, a stiffness
to his spine. Even in aloneness

he would not bow to pain,
but carried it upon his shoulders
like a cross,

his private Via Dolorosa,
counted by the minutes
and the hours of his steps.