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Sport 40: 2012

The Half-Life of Jesus

page 142

The Half-Life of Jesus

     [ I ]

On the day when a survey of biblical knowledge
revealed that twenty per cent of respondents
who claimed to be Christians and to own a Bible
could say nothing whatsoever about
the crucifixion or the resurrection,
a brother of Michael Jackson said his name would live forever.

     [ I I ]

From the Ethiopians on the roof,
closest to God, I descended
to the patchwork of persuasions in the church
and stood in line for thirty minutes
waiting my turn to enter the horrible box
atop the sepulchre
where prayers and kisses
lip-glossed and glorified the rock—
the Lord, I suppose, knows why I was there,
he sees into the hearts of atheists—
and when I was the next at last
a great Greek momma hung with gold and rosaries and crosses
shoved like a hippo to the front
and, challenged by a shy, polite attendant
who pointed to the hundred others waiting,
brushed aside all fear of falsehood
as she might a parking ticket
and lied indignantly, ‘Young man, I’ve been here all the time!’

Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem

page 143

     [ I I I ]

These olive trees, which those who know such things
declare to be two thousand summers old . . .
what ragged twists of wood they are,
like hanks of tangled rope, snagged, knotted, frayed,
the military grey-green of the leaves
silvered like suede brushed hard against the light.

Today there are men on knuckled wooden ladders
gathering in the bitter harvest,
dappled by the shadows and the sunlight,
knocking down the olives with their sticks.

What would I give to hear what they could say,
these trees, the sole surviving witnesses.

Garden of Gethsemane

     [ I V ]

No, I can’t suppose the Great Story true.
Still, I prefer to live as if it were.

And so I make the toilsome journey too,
with gifts of gold and frankincense and words.