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Heads Up poetry column: Jesus

By Philip Appleman


We’re cast in the image of God,

they say, but

up here the image blurs—

that Pharisee at the edge of the crowd,

the one with a burro’s belly

and a toad’s complexion

is he the real thing, God

in the flesh?

Or maybe that saintly starveling, all

bones in her pinched piety—does God

have a profile like hers?

Just days ago, these very faces,

rainbowed with joy, saw palm trees

ripped and strewn for the son of man. Now

my palms are red,

and it’s all changed—bloodlust

smudges the thousand grins

of God. Here

in this Friday frenzy, just

look at them, the veins

in that legionnaire’s legs, the brutal

mouth, the pocked face, and . . .

And of course the handsome boy out there

eyeing the splendid line

of that girl’s arm—them, too.

It all counts,

doesn’t it?

I suppose they aren’t even wondering,

this godly rabble out for fun,

expecting something big today, something

spectacular. So I should be telling them,

now, before I’m dust forever—

you don’t pay off an ugly squint

with a nice ankle; a luscious

lower lip doesn’t make up

for a running sore; and above all, nobody

ever promised you justice.

All you have to know is

that a beautiful shoulder is God, but

a twisted leg is God, too,

and crooked noses and bad teeth. This

is the real revelation—that God

is only a trick with mirrors, our

dark reflection in the glass.

So up here, getting this panoramic view,

I hear the voices of God on every side,

all mocking me, “Hold on,

it’s your big scene!” And I cry out

to every smooth and sacred cheek,

to every holy wart and pustule—the spikes

tearing at my hands—I call to every

body on this hill of skulls,


Why have you

forsaken me?

From Perfidious Proverbs and Other Poems: A Satirical Look At The Bible