Jesus, you would freak me out, all that pulpy ooze
Leaking down your spear-driven ribs and, higher up,
Little icicles of blood on the thorns around your brow.
But I loved the rough sandals, the long hair, so Sixties,
And the sexy women weeping at your bony feet—
Who wasn’t strung out and stoned in those holy days?
When I was ten, raised among the incense-swinging priests
And the bayou shrines, you were the only Jew I knew.
I could take or leave the miracles—the movies made more
Scary magic than that—but a slender patient hand
On a sinner’s shoulder could move me to sissy tears.
Oh Jesus, when you walked the back roads with those rude
And brawny fishermen, and the other odd dusty disciples,
What were you thinking? Even the army finds better recruits.
I didn’t care if you were God’s only son, or only the offspring
Of a dubious girl and an old goat. You could talk the talk,
And you could take a punch. Early on Sunday mornings,
I kneeled and said my Latin lines and rang the tiny bell, bowing
In my sneakers and ratty cassock, sleepy and half-convinced
That sacred wafer was your body melting on my tongue.
And on Good Fridays, I wiped the spittle left by pious lips
Kissing your dead toes on the church’s Easter crucifix.
Now all I know is we both turned away from loving mothers
And fathers who worked hard all day with their patient hands,
Pushing past everything to a distant mission beyond ourselves,
Where there’s pain and kindness and last words clawing at the dark.
[From Confrontation 116]