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Joseph’s meditation as envisioned on Thompson St., Manhattan

Yes, this is it. The stable’s stench, the goats
eating hay from the baby’s manger, the scrawny cows
that haven’t given milk for days
asleep on their feet, this is how
holiness begins, among
the mess and stink of things, and the fact
there’s a child too, well
this is just an afterthought, although its face, the color
of mud
and spattered with birth crud, is
a saving grace, reminding us
how real salvation’s most easily achieved
where dung clings to our sandals
and daybreak belongs to those who, challenging
the census-takers to find them, migrate
and survive.

The journey

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Tired to the bone, the vagrant preacher
on the hilltop recoils from the unforgiving wind.
His lips, twisted in
a grimace of thirst, are “like”
whatever we think we see.

And look at his rib cage, a burglar’s ladder
ascending to a second story window
in a house with nothing in it
but the wish that it contained what it doesn’t.

Brightening more each day
the forsythia’s colorful uncaringness
wreaks havoc on the minds
of the slowly dying who
cling stubbornly to life.
The preacher spits angrily
into the wind, it blows back
splattering his face.

It is Good Friday and on the train platform a cat sleeps
in a corner behind a trash basket.
Not one but so many
crosses cast their shadows over the faces
of those who stand here and wait.

The passengers who at the last moment
trade in their tickets for a new destination, they’re the ones
whose eagerness is most holy.

In the end, we get off the train, walk
for miles, then
mount the hill.

There, on the map of a dead man’s brow, narrow
pathways of blood crisscross confusedly, each
leading in a different direction, all of which end up
with you on your knees before
an altar made of flesh, wormholes and stars.

Only on Golgotha
where the vinegar alone possesses dignity
does spring really count.

Thinking about Jesus while living in another country

Unharnessed by a farmer from his cart, a bull
munches grass near a hut, behind which
a woman in a garden fingers
the darkness under cauliflower leaves.
Up the hill, a well pulley creaks
like a gurney’s wheels in a hospital I remember
from long ago.
There was a city then. An apartment above
the 10th St. deli.
I tried but couldn’t translate what the East River said.
Now, along the fence on the far side
of the lane winding past
the woman’s vegetable patch, bougainvillea flowers
relocate from stem to hand as my daughter plucks them.
No why? is in her eyes,
doing’s pleasure is enough for her.
The world is still.
The moment’s giganticness, the endlessness
of everything that is,
invites us in.
When we enter, time stops.
After a period of almost
too much clarity, we awaken in the dead of night while walking
down a street strewn with corpses, each of which
relates a story that
if ignored
nails another spike
into Jesus’ mutilated flesh on the cross.

Beginning with a 16th Century Instructor

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Because she says her rosary
in Spanish, I’m glad my body is bilingual, given
how limited the mind is.
I am, after all, seeking truth.

In the convent in Avila, knees
on stone, St. Theresa prays.
Are those really black olives in her ears
or just their color?

We must be careful
in the world.
The way a clam sucks water
through a tiny filter scares even Lucifer.
The biological
always deafens no matter how quiet its lyrics.
The moth’s face
is more hideous than any of Satan’s creations,
and more glorious.

All of this matters now.
I have needs. To grab real hair. To learn
how near the distant is. To open my eyes
and conjecture how it is that meaning rides
my cock, crying out on top of me.

St. Theresa is still on her knees in a trance.
I approach her.
No matter from what angle, she looks the same.

Eventually, unable to restrain myself any longer,
I tilt back her head
and bite a hole in her neck, then peer in, looking
for where prayers come from.

Letter to Dietrich Bonhoeffer

They offered you asylum
and you took it, not
the one they wanted you to take, near
the Hudson River, teaching
at the seminary, but
another one, the “shelter”
you could only find by going back
across the Atlantic
to Germany where the danger was.
Day and night the Gestapo
broke down doors and dragged away
whatever scraps of sanity they could find
hiding under beds or
in backroom closets. The God
whose absence you cupped
like a tiny wounded bird in your hands
and warmed with your breath
learned from you how to sing in spite
of its not being there. That’s
the chorale solo you listened to
as you battled the Reich, then
ended up
in a concentration camp, dead.
I can still hear
your faintly breathing
bird singing now.
Is it true
that only those sane enough to lose their minds
can memorize
the notes?