Come Dirty (poem)

(by Daniel R. Jones)

“This is a holy moment,” dad said,
pouring my vodka down the kitchen sink.
“You need to know I’m proud.”

But my sixteen-year-old brain
toggled between godly sorrow
and utter shame.

In terms of salvation,
“come clean,” is a most
unfortunate misnomer.

We tend to come 
dirty, broken
and afraid.

80-proof Smirinoff
circling down
the drain

like some backwards 
Old Testament
drink offering.

A holy moment, indeed.

the wrenching of the HIp that Precedes the Blessing (poem)

(by Daniel R. Jones)

They all went black:
the fixed stars we use 
to navigate our broken lives. 

Now we’re cutting 
our way through the fog,
ambling away from Bethlehem.

Well-aware the cosmic ledger—
light and dark, joy and sorrow
is far from balanced, this side of Elysian fields.

Fearful of what it all means;
there’s a part of your soul that’s nocturnal;
rouses, comes awake when it’s dark.

On the same night
the physicists proved, mathematically
man has no soul,

the mystics proved, artistically
man does have a soul.
I inquired of God: which is true?

I was answered 
by a torrent of silence,
and the silence argued

if a thousand years is like a day,
and a day, a thousand years,
a generation of silence from God

is just a lull in the conversation. 
The silence pained me
like the wrenching of the hip 

that precedes the blessing.
and with each surpassing revelation, 
He became more mysterious.

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.

The Sheen in Dirty Things

(by Daniel R. Jones)

From a kitchen window, I saw it,
my sudsy hands soaking
in a sink:

Pearl white, a silky sheen of a thing,
the taut, intricate patterns glistened in the sun.

And just like the first recorded question of God,
it struck me.
Who told you spiderwebs were dirty?