Telling Secrets to the Night
Leonard Cohen says
that Jesus walked on water.
Choppy chaos. Here Be Dragons, say the maps.
Spent, distracted, weary, not fresh surely,
He, having just made supper
for four thousand desert people
living near the sea he walked upon.
Because he could, because
the world he made remembered.
Stepping on imagined stones across the roiling waters.
Winds intent on smashing boats and swamping sailors,
seeming for the moment so to win.
Then falling calm, the sea gone glassy,
and in the fine print the disclaimer: unfair advantage.
He never did play fair. Death will not have a prayer.
The old hymn advises: Be still my soul
the waves and wind still know his voice
that calmed them when he walked below.
Sung at funerals. All six verses. The tune Finlandia
Jesus walked on water. Word is he terrified apostles,
thinking him a ghost night could explain away.
It says he meant to pass them by.
God passed Moses by, tucked up safely in a cleft.
Moses saw the glory. Had Jesus thought
the sailors might glimpse glory too.
He had not come to pay a call, but no, I think,
to tell the sea the time was near when heavens break,
the made earth quake to rend the veil,
all nature on that morning do as bidden.
It is beginning now, he’d come to tell the night,
the night he separated from the light
on that first morning.
But for the moment
only waves and wind remember:
swift, obeisant, reverent,
settle with a calm that we the sentient,
after all, seem not to know.
It’s the Real Thing
I read in the local paper
on the op-ed page this morning
that all the stories in the Bible
are metaphor, no less, no more.
The writer said a person didn't
have to be a friggin' theologian
to know that. I looked up friggin'
in the O.E.D. It said the word
was rude, poor cousin of one ruder.
And then I open up the book opined
about so brusquely, and read
of scruffy fishermen camped
on a beach at breakfast time, and eating
fish served by a man so lately crucified,
quite newly risen from the dead;
those fishermen too blind to see the man
for metaphor; too hungry, having worked
all night, not catching a damn thing,
to recognize the fish as simile.
But I don't know. A person likes to credit
kindly what you read in the paper: words
written by a man, who does not know
himself to be more, surely more than just
an emblem of a kind of disappointment,
I will not have him be the metaphor he
at first meeting begs to be, a silly symbol
of ephemeral cheek.
Not when there is fresh sea salmon
baking on the coals, this host,
and wine and bread, a day ahead
to last beyond explaining.