Good Friday 2001

On Monday I saw Christ crucified

at Hunter’s Point where the Navy poured

poison into the veins of Islais Creek,

into the soil itself, from oil barrels, bilge

from ships, turning the bay shore

into no man’s land, where the prettiest

birdsong I have ever heard

ricocheted off green tenements,

shot through a hoop rim that hung

in an empty outdoor court

by one stripped screw.


On Holy Thursday, in a TV documentary

I showed to my class, I saw Christ crucified

in the face of an elk dragged down by wolves,

in the face of the wolves hunting for supper,

giving chase to their prey, leaping

and snapping at the loose skin

around one neck, hanging on

until others joined, leaped,

sunk teeth into flesh, felled

and fed on still living meat

that pulsed blood onto furred snouts

until, gorged, drunk on muscle

and tissue, the wolves staggered off to sleep.


Today, driving downtown, stopped in traffic,

going nowhere while my car’s engine

burned gas and oil, revving and idling,

I crucified the sky, warming the planet

by a fraction of a degree, melting

icecaps and glaciers, turning forest

into desert, killing plankton, shrimp,

coral and kelp somewhere far

from my line of sight.


In two days Christ will rise,

once again, his angels pushing aside

the stone from the face of the cave,

He standing inside the stone sepulcher,

the lid slid sideways. He will place

one bare foot on the cold dust of the floor,

move into the rays of light, alive, as if

for the first time, staring at an olive tree in the distance,

a board nailed to its crown,

just above new leaves, purple as a baby’s face

turned to the first light.


— Paul Totah


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