Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Two Jesus Poems

Sea of Galilee (Lake Gennesaret)
I haven't posted poetry in a long time (largely because I haven't written any in a long time), but I stumbled on these two poems that I wrote as a creative project for my ethics class a while back and thought I'd share them. They're not my finest work by any means, but even the modest audience of this blog is better than my words just sitting idly in a folder on my computer desktop. I hope you enjoy.

The Sermon on the Plain: A Prologue

He took them to a rocky level place
overlooking the waters,
where no heads could be seen above the rest.
And there was total silence, but for the wind.

Floating chaff from nearby wheat fields
stung his narrowed eyes
and dusted his untrimmed hair.
A gnat landed indiscriminately in his beard;
he brushed it away and gently
scratched the itch it left behind.

A heavy breath, a careful consideration
of his words, and his shoulders
unexpectedly crumpled under the weight
of Jeremiah, of Isaiah,
of Micah and Amos.
Buckling under the shadows
of those prophets who boiled
for justice and mercy—
each prophet a stone, cut and heaved 
at the clay feet of inestimable Caesars,
the moral arc of the universe trembling
ever so slightly
to accommodate each muckraker
at their own risk—
he sat beneath a lone olive tree,
crossed his legs, and sighed again.

Here were the fishers,
the tinkers, the tenant farmers.,
the relegated women and neglected children.
What had they to do with emperors
and reigns of kings?
What had they to do with anything
but the passing of seasons
and the harrowing
of the fields and lake
for food?
For years, the Galileans swallowed
stones for bread and snakes for fish—
where was their remittance of debt,
the promised justice
bubbling up like the springs rolling
down from grey-haired Mount Hermon?

At first, the disciples sat stiff
like weathered fence posts
sunk firm in the rocky ground,
their heads as dense as stones,
but slowly—like spring
lilies opening before the sun,
or a beggar smoothing his muddy
woven grass mat over a dirt doorstep—
their hearts unrolled
and their ears opened.

And Jesus—that filthy
humble peasant rabbi,
ethicist of ethicists,
yoke-bearer of Empire,
melter of swellheadedness
and multiplier of loaves—
opened his mouth,
raised his hands;
and with the selfsame thoughtfulness
by which he navigated
“Unto Caesar” and “Unto God,”
and with all the prophetic agitation
of waves eternally splintering against
inlets of the Gennesaret,
he began to speak:

The Sermon on the Plain: A Teaching

“You are the poor—
and how privileged you are
in your poverty!
God provides for you
like the lilies and the crows;
even the clothing of kings
and the wheat-barns of the wealthy
do not share your radiance
before God.

For those among you who are humble:
How privileged you are
in your meekness!
The fullness of creation,
the passing skies and the fertile earth
bursting with the vibrant Reign of God,
will belong to you someday.

For those among you who mourn:
Cheer up! There is no room
for tears in the coming Reign;
the toppling mountains will fill
the valleys, loss and lack
and grief and hopelessness
pass, and all
will be restored.

For those among you who are starving:
How privileged you are
in your hunger!
Remember those who yearn
after righteousness, and don’t be afraid!
Like the ravens, my friends will bring
you bread for your bellies
and justice for your hearts. And you,
likewise, must feed others in your abundance.
All will even out in the end.

For those among you who are merciful
and those of you who make peace:
How privileged you are
in your compassion!
Forgetfulness of self
and the will to sacrifice safety
for the realm to come;
This is the very face of God!

But how terrible it will be
for you who hates
your brother! Children
of Cain! Thorns
in an unplowed field!
Hatred is but violence of the heart;
Whoever despises the image of God
is guilty of brutality!

How terrible it will be
for the violent!
Hatred with skin on!
If you are struck
by hand, steel, or stone,
Do not resist, but forgive!
No weapon cuts
like a pardoned wrong.
There is no room
in the place where I will show you
for implements of warfare.

How terrible it will be
for the tightfisted!
They will shrivel
before the coming
Reign of God
like mosquitoes
before the first frost,
like wet wool
under the heat of the sun.
There is no room
in the place where I will show you
for the self-concerned.

Give to everyone that asks;
what value does your money have to you
except to weigh your pocket down?
But the generous are honored by God,
and the just
and those who make themselves last.”

And with that
he stood in renewed verve and took
aim at the Jerusalem Temple,
a hundred miles south.

And as the sun collapsed over the lake
like a grain cart with a broken wheel,
the beloved peasants pursued him in earnest.

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