Audio: Read by the author.
I never knew what was going on.
He would say, “Let’s go,” and we
would follow. “Follow” was his word.
And we would. Fools we were to let that
take us all that way. Why we did to this day
I don’t know. Look how it ended. Look
what it became. But what did we have
to stay for? Nothing. There wasn’t much
work. Nothing much to do. There were no
stories left. Bread. Fish. So we ended up
with more bread and fish. But we did find
stories and stories. Well, what else is there?
I never did much along the way. Look it up.
In the big deal painting I’m the one who appears
rather glassy eyed, and believe me, it wasn’t the wine.
I just went along. The miracles had been done before.
I will say, though, that it was his words. Words!
Imagine. Words had never done what his did.
I’d listen, and I wasn’t much of a listener. Then
later I would try to make sense of them. I couldn’t.
But I could feel them. And maybe that was it, how
they got inside you and made you wonder and wrinkle.
They got in my brain’s garden and made it seem like
the roots were above ground and all the flowers and
vegetables, all the nourishing, were now below.
He didn’t reverse things, exactly—the first shall be
last and the last first and all that. It was that everything
changed inside me when he said those things. It was
what happened to me. I started looking at lepers and the poor
and paid no attention anymore to the kings and scribes and
Pharisees. I had thought the world of them. Now they seemed
unimportant in their importance. See? See how hard it is to
explain this stuff? You just started seeing everything with a
new mind. You began to be drawn to a whole new world,
and it was a world. Like now. A world within a world, one
drawing you, the other imposing itself on you. Why am I
telling you what you already know? Erosions. That’s it.
The reversals were erosions. And in what was left, I
wanted to plant what didn’t belong. Lilies in fields.
You might say, okay, whatever, and yet those words
did become flesh, my flesh. And my flesh, my body, held
the kingdom of God, and if it’s a place that’s a place
for children, then most of what I know really doesn’t matter.
Labor doesn’t, and money, and reason, and, well, you
go make a list. He’d get me so confused. And then we’d
head off worrying about how we would eat and where
we’d sleep. Our feet were filthy. My God, we were always
filthy. We stank. And then he’d go and point at birds or
stalks of grain, even stop and have us kneel before a flower,
and then he’d smile. That haunts me still. That smile.
And then he died. He brought out hate, not love. He had
a terrifying sense of justice. Nothing he said or did
was impossible. Maybe that was it. It was all possible.
Jack Ridl is the author of three books from Wayne State Press: Saint Peter and the Goldfinch; Practicing to Walk Like a Heron, recipient of the ForeWords Review/Indie Pub Gold Medal; and Broken Symmetry, named the year’s best book of poetry by the Society of Midland Authors.
The Image archive is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.