Beyond the Balustrade (Poem)

[by Daniel R. Jones]

 (After John 8:2-11.)

NO FOREIGNER
IS TO GO BEYOND THE BALUSTRADE
AND THE PLAZA OF THE TEMPLE ZONE
WHOEVER IS CAUGHT DOING SO
WILL HAVE HIMSELF TO BLAME
FOR HIS DEATH
WHICH WILL FOLLOW.
-The Warning Inscription in the Jerusalem Temple

Darker, more substantive
against a backdrop of
pastel, Judean girls:
my mistress strode
all smoke and sparks
in the marketplace.

I gave the devil his due,
offered, even, some gratuity;
steeling myself against
the thought of her open
mouth kissing my
throat’s blood vessels open, 

As I wince through
Forgive me, Father,
for I have sinned,
still sin, in truth,
intend on
right on sinning.

Her husband’s not at home,
but he’s a good man.
Yeah, well, in Eden
Eve was enticed.
Desire isn’t always sprung
for lack of something.

Her body was a temple,
and she let me in.
There, beyond the balustrade
they found me.
Dragged her through the complex
while I fled on foot.

Some mornings I try to catch her
gaze in the city square
as she haggles the price
of a fish or purchases a basket;
her movements are lighter,
more fluid than they were before.

She left her life of sin,
the day she wasn’t stoned.
Where are your accusers?
Meanwhile, townspeople prattle
on about how I should’ve stood
beside her. It was a stroke of luck

when I fled with my life in my hands,
or so they say. But she
has faced the Arbitrator
and been absolved.
And I have yet
to face Him.

The Second Greatest Commandment

(by Daniel R. Jones)

He wasn’t bleeding by the side of the road
to Jericho, or ransacked
by a group of marauders

or bruised
or naked
or left for dead.

He just needed a ride home from work.

He didn’t bother asking.
He’d already asked a couple times this week.
His eyes did the asking:

“I know you’re a Samaritan,
but will you be good?”

But my last cup of coffee and my Aleve
were wearing off in tandem,
and my wife and son were seated, already,
around some quickly-cooling Stroganoff.

Father,
brother,
forgive me.

Inspiration from Hafiz: A Hole in a Flute

Sometime, Christ-honoring poetry can come from unexpected places. Consider, for instance, “A Hole in a Flute” by Hafiz, a Sufi poet from the 1300s:

A Hole in a Flute

I am a hole in a flute
that the Christ’s breath moves through.
Listen to this music.

I am the concert from the mouth of every creature
singing with the myriad chorus.

I am a hole in a flute
that the Christ’s breath moves through
Listen to this music.


 

Though it cannot be argued that Hafiz was a disciple of Christ, this poem speaks vividly of the Lord’s enlivening πνεῦμα (Greek “pneuma”–breath, or spirit.) The poem calls to mind the words of John the Baptist, when he said “He must become greater, I must become less.”

If we study closely, we can see clear evidence of the Image of God being reflected in His creation, whether the author of said words had a full understanding of Christ’s role in eternity or not.