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John Thieme

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John Thieme

(for Derek Walcott)

Another Malabar sunrise.
Encircling dunes and palms that bow to earth,
paying mock respect to me,
their sceptical Messiah.
I doubt tomorrow will arrive,
but I’m happy building sand-churches
that may outlast another tide.

I dream about an over-crowded day,
when He fed hundreds, maybe more.
I doubt there were five thousand – who can say? –
and the wine flowed freely, that’s for sure.
James and John brought shoals of fishes from the nets
they’d kept away from public view
and there were scores of bakers at the back,
kneading the miracle with their hands,
while He, upfront, entranced the audience with his tales.

I’m not naïve, like trusting Joseph.
He pooh-poohed cynics who looked twice
and said his son was human,
though not a chip from his old block.
And chaste, unsullied Mary, she could tell a story.
She taught me how to talk the talk.
So, since I never saw Him rise
and wasn’t there when others saw Him after “death”,
when she was gone, I worked a wonder of my own,
and spun my tale of her ascent from earth.

Now supine on these gold blaspheming sands,
sun-blind, web-footed, waving scrolls amid the fronds,
I’ll spread the faith, avoiding Galilean cant,
a new hot gospel, laced with Common Era doubt.
A hermit crab moves sideways near my feet,
my first disciple, writing hieroglyphics in the sand,
Reshaping all my words in his Dravidian scrawl.
I school myself to doubt my doubt.
I talk to roaches, get wisdom from mosquitoes.
I learn the tongues of my new land.

It’s true I tried to touch the nail marks in His hands.
“Feeling is believing,” a knowing Roman said.
But believing what? He’d always been so smart.
Perhaps he never died at all.
I see a figure underneath the palms.
I think it’s Him, come searching for me here.
Quick. I must translate His message first.


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