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?