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Poetry

They had reasons to believe in God.
Miracles helped. And their aftereffects
must have lingered for a time, but then,
the disciples needed to start walking again,
one town to another, nothing in between
but the hot, dusty road and a desert
of sand and rock where not one thing
required a moment’s appreciation.
Just one sandaled foot in front of another
and way too much time to consider,
say, the whole bed-through-the-roof episode
or the uncrossable valley between sleeping
and death. What did we really see?
the disciples must have asked themselves
as they walked with their teacher,
who always seemed near and far at once.
And what were they to make of that question
he would not stop asking, and asked,
they suspected, as if he were mocking them—
Who do you say I am, who do you say I am?
They probably wished they had more time
to think about how to answer and yet
they knew, too, that time was exactly
what they had. They must have wondered,
Is he asking who he is or who we say he is?
And, What does it matter who we say he is?
Every day brought different questions—
Do we need to know who we are to answer?
And, Is who we are the same as who we are
in relation to him?—and different answers.
Some days their teacher seemed a story
that was living and some days a story
they were not sure how they would
ever tell. It could not have been easy
to believe they would be saved by someone
who told them he was headed straight
for a cross. And then it happened.
And they felt like witnesses to an event
they had never wanted, and one
that had arrived without their being
ready for it. They must have known
afterward that theirs would be
a ridiculous and mulish faith
taking place in between the arousals
of good bread and wine, and a God
who was felt most now that he was gone.


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