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 Brunt of the Curse (poem)

Having borne the brunt
of the women’s curse,
your mother sat with you,
quietly nursing at her breast.

Your pink wrinkles shielded under
her sea-green hospital gown:
My eyes are blessed to see this.
Blessed and red and wet.

Every few days, your lifespan doubled,
but all you knew so far was white walls
sterile scenery and dry hospital air.

I read the parable of the lost sheep
and a Pablo Neruda poem—
wistful and melancholy.
For now you’ll just have to imagine
what a sheep or a Chilean “calle” might look like.

The brunt of a man’s curse
is that the work he does
for the ones he loves
is done almost entirely away from them.

I kissed your head and I headed for the door into the sunshine,
hoping maybe tomorrow you could see it for yourself.