Go into the hills
an bring back logs,
straight, peel the bark
and smooth them
satin fibers, the main pole
at least eight arms
the cross no less than six.
Lash them well
so they will not yield
under the weight
of the body
where you might hang.
Do not speak
to the shepherd,
he will tell tales
of what he claims
he has seen on the hill
but he cannot be trusted
and speaks of his dreams
of centurions standing
over the freshly dug graves.
First appeared in Rain Dog Review Vol. 1, No. 4 (1996) and later in
Legal Studies Forum Vol 32, No. 1 (2008)
As a child, a Jewish child no less,
December was always a bit difficult.
We had Channukah, which no Jew
would dare claim grew solely to compete
with Christmas, although we all knew
that was precisely what had happened.
The problem was Christmas, but had
nothing to do with Jesus, or the church
or even its historical teachings about
the supposed role we Jews played
in that story, a role for which we
had been paying for two millennia.
The problem was far more basic,
and all you needed to do was drive
down virtually any street in any city
and it would be at once apparent.
Christmas-celebrating homes were decked
out in all colors of lights, while
Jewish homes, those few who competed,
were left with a palate of white
and blue, or up to nine candles,
and that was a guaranteed for sure
last place finish in the December game.
Walking on ice is easy, although
you must be careful not to slip
for the fall can be damaging, but
walking on water is impossible
unless you are not you, and he
has returned in your body
which we all find highly unlikely,
although the difference between
you is a simple state of matter.
The question, then, is do you
see any real difference
between the two of you
and if not, he may well smile
as you together disappear
into a thick cloud of steam.
He is due to arrive
as soon as we are ready.
We have known for some time
that he is on his way,
and we want everything just so
for him when he arrives.
That is the least we can do,
and the least he would expect.
We are not certain
just what he will want
so we can never be certain
we are actually ready.
That, we think, explains
why he has not arrived.
Unless he has, since we
have never seen him,
and don’t know if he
might actually be a she.
So we say our prayers
and go on with preparations.
He walks into the room
hoping he won’t be seen
and if seen, won’t be recognized.
Not many know him,
none, he is certain, truly
know him, merely his image
and the idea they have of him.
It has been this way
for centuries, and he can barely
recall the acts done, the words
spoken in his name.
He has been here forever
but they wait, patiently,
expecting a return
he cannot make until
they let go of their dreams
and see the reality of him.
He came, stayed a while,
and left, and it was only when
he was gone that most missed him.
Some say he will come back
but others are skeptical, and
no one really knows for certain.
Some actually say that he didn’t leave,
that he simply changed, and might
appear when no one expects him.
Several said it was a she, not a he.
No one was quite certain
of the person’s name, some said
it was Jesus, some said Buddha,
some said it was Tara, but the children
said it didn’t matter really,
that to see him, to see here,
all you needed was a mirror,
and the real name was simply Peace.
It is incredibly difficult
to be a truly holy man, it isn’t
enough to inspire peace
with your words and presence,
you had better walk on water,
turn water into wine, heal
with the touch of a single finger.
You can’t simply stand up
for justice at the risk
of your own life and limb,
you have to wander around
a desert, carry tablets
down the side of a mountain.
You cannot be compassion,
you have to forsake everything
and be always available
for questions that have no answers.
It’s a real problem, since we
all seek to be holy, but no one
wants to do the hard work of it.