If I remember right,
Jesus arrived at the trailer where we lived in Glenville
during the summer when Papaw Henry
poured gasoline all around the elm tree stump
and incinerated the Japanese beetles.
He could do anything, that man.
But Papaw wasn’t around
when Jesus showed up. I recognized
him at once as he emerged like a daddy longlegs
from his Volkswagen bug stuffed full of books.
“Jesus is here,” I said to Mom.
I knew because I’d seen him
gleaming in glass and sunlight at church—
the autumnal tint of his beard and long wavy hair
and his eyes as blue as the plastic cup
I used to brush my teeth mornings and nights,
and yet not nursery-hued
like funny pages or Sunday School booklets
filled with pictures of him and Moses,
but in dingy linen and gray corduroy,
with a face cavernous and tired
and veins of silver through his hair.
Mom offered him coffee—
yes, with cream and sugar please,
and my little brother was in diapers
and had scant knowledge of theology
so he wasn’t especially intrigued,
but like Thomas in a spasm of doubt
I asked him, “Are you Jesus?”
and he and Mom laughed, “You can call me Mark,”
and I thought maybe I could call him Jesus
after we’d spent more time together.
Out of his bag he took a shallow box
lopped sidelong like one of those slate markers
on the battle graves up on Tank Hill,
but when he touched its strings
with those infinite fingernails of his,
I knew it was a harp like I’d heard
the angels playing in the clouds.
He cuddled its cheek against his own
and set his arms caressing all around it
the way I’d always hoped and wanted to be touched
and sang in rhyme, and Mom sang too,
the vanishing parables of those hills.