Atonement for an Unsolved Murder

In the heart of a golden barley field
lies a man, staring up at the clear sky.
The sun and the wind wash over him,
but he does not blink. The side of his head
has been beaten in -- now soil and blood
and skull are home to happy ants.

The elders of the nearest town come out
to meet the man. They bring with them
a heifer -- an unworked, unyoked heifer.
They walk her past him and into an untilled valley
beside a flowing stream. With the image
of the dead man's half-head gleaming
in their front minds, the elders hold the cow.

One elder takes the heifer's head
into his elder hands, taking in the feel
of her textured face against his palms.
He pulls his gaze away from her two brown eyes.

For one moment, two moments, there is silence
as the elder takes hold now of the smoothened branch
that has been prepared for this occasion.
With two hands he lifts it high above his head.
The branch stands against the blueness of the sky. Then --
the wood comes down hard on the innocent heifer,
down hard on her virgin neck, down as hard
as it could come, down -- hard enough
to crack the silence and the smoothened branch.
The neck of the heifer breaks. Her head hangs,
her knees buckle and she falls.
But her eyes do not close.

All of the men look away, eyes open
toward the moving stream. They take
the running water into their hands;
they wash their hands over the fallen
heifer whose neck was broken in that valley.

And they pray: "O God! You see. You know.
Our hands did not shed this blood. Our eyes
did not see it. Forgive Your people, O LORD."

And the bloodguiltiness is forgiven.

A strange post, I know. The section heading in my Bible for this passage in Deuteronomy 21 was crying out to be the title of a poem, a play, a novel, a hardcore rock band... So this piece is what has come of it from my own pen. Feedback?

except you ravish me

         "Behold, I stand at the door and knock: if any one hear my voice, and open the door, I will come to her, and will dine with her, and she with me." Revelation 3:20.

Lord Jesus, I hear your knock but find that I cannot answer it. Is it for fear or for shame? Is it for pride or for weakness? I cannot tell. But I can hear, if even faintly, your knocking---your pierced hand rapping on the wood---and your voice coming through the door. Yet I am inside, unmoving, my legs as lead, my hands dead against my side. My heart itself seems to have grown cold and quiet, heavy and unbeating in my chest. I cannot answer you, I cannot rise, I cannot find the knob, I cannot open that door. I cannot let you in!

But Lord Jesus, how I want you to enter! I am voiceless and motionless, but how I long to dine with you, and you with me! So Jesus, behold me---dying if not dead. And Jesus, hear me---silent and pleading. And Jesus!---be polite no more, but batter my heart!

"Batter my heart, three-person'd God, for you 
As yet but knock, breathe, shine, and seek to mend;
That I may rise, and stand, o'erthrow me, and bend
Your force to break, blow, burn, and make me new.
I, like an usurp'd town, to another due,
Labour to admit you, but O, to no end.
Reason, your viceroy in me, me should defend,
But is captived, and proves weak or untrue.
Yet dearly I love you, and would be loved fain,
But am betroth'd unto your enemy;
Divorce me, untie, or break that knot again,
Take me to you, imprison me, for I,
Except you enthrall me, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me."

.: Holy Sonnet XIV, John Donne :. 

as a child

As a child I searched for you. There was the soft prayer necklace of the Catholic boy from my day care -- it hung around my neck, it hung against my bare chest, but it was silent. You were not in the necklace and I did not know how to call out for you.

And I remember shutting myself away in a small room for quiet, so that I could learn the words in the back of that book. It was at the end of the Bible---it had its own special page with a color illustration---so I thought it must be one of the important parts. I did learn it, reciting it at night by my bedside as I had seen on TV. "Our Father in heaven, hallowed is your name..." But I didn't know your name. And I didn't know that you were my Father.

And when the Stevens' couldn't give me a ride, I would put on my too-small dress shoes and walk to the church. It was a very big building and it had a very big cross and you were supposed to be there. I went in, I listened somewhat, I even ate the bread and drank the wine, but I never saw you there: not in the crowded lobby or the lofty sanctuary, not on the cross, not on the silver plate and not in the tiny glass. Maybe you were there, but I didn't know you enough to recognize you.

And later, studying the charts, I learned about my seven astral bodies, my chakras, my inner selves. But knowing this was like knowing a recipe or knowing a table of contents. It was not like knowing a person. If I had ben asked what I was looking for, I would not have said "Somebody." I certainly would never have said that I was looking for you. In fact, if I had been asked what I was looking for, I would have said "Nothing." Which was exactly what I had been finding.

Little could I have guessed that you were there, that you knew my name, that you were calling out after me, that you were searching too.

But when I found that out, 
then I found you.