Category Archives: Critters in the Gospels

The Donkey Was Reliable [Matthew 2:13-15]

While Joseph locked the house and pocketed the key,

looking over his shoulder, alert for boots and steel,

your mother grabbed a dog-eared Goodnight Moon,

and two soft toys, strapped you in the car-seat

on the back of the beast, looped the bag over her arm,

and climbed on. The donkey was reliable

all the way to Egypt.

And now, O Jesus, risen from the dead,

we look to you to carry.

Whenever hearts too hard pursued need hiding

in some far safe place, we pack up fears and treasures

and climb on you.

Prepare Ye [Matthew 3:4b]

Those spring-loaded locusts you caught on the fly?  Try broiling or baking, or bread them and fry;

or snap off their noggins and set them to boil, then dry them and mince them and sauté in oil;

or serve them with garlic and saffron, or plain, and eat them at supper for starters or main;

or dust them with sugar and serve on a stick, or coat them in choc-o-late luscious and thick;

or pop them still thrumming, still blinking and raw,                               with no salt or ketchup right into your craw.  

These methods will make you a bug-eating whiz.   So how did the Baptist, I wonder, eat his?

Langue de chien, langue de médecin [Luke 16:20]

The dog comes down the road, all loping insousiance, upcurled tail attended by a retinue of flies.

His speckled tongue lolls over brown teeth, searching the air for decay.

He muzzles through rinds and gristle, tosses wrappers streaked with oil, laps the slick skins of old boiled fish

and comes at last to Lazarus lumped at the gate. Filthy dog, the poor man says, afraid. You will tear me apart.

A long tongue finds an ulcered arm. The dog takes pleasure in this sour business, licking and licking the sores.

When all the sores turn pink, the Samaritan departs.

Even the Dogs [Matthew 15:27]

                                                                                                               I hope for messy eaters

who tear supper loaves apart

as if there were no tomorrow

passed from hand to hand

crusty crumbs descend

from board to this bare place

manna at night

I hope for rowdy eaters

who wave big-knuckled hands

to illustrate loud opinions

downsweep catches the cup

it clatters down to me

still in its dented bowl

water from rock

I hope for happy eaters

who hip to hip on benches

sway to their mothers’ songs

napkins slide from knees

parachutes with cargo

cores of new green apples

Eden again

An Excerpt from St Peter’s Welcome Speech to The Newly-Arrived in Heaven [Matthew 6:19]


In Heaven

you can wear wool if you want to.

When you stroll inside these pearly gates

on our golden streets to choir Wednesdays at seven

(we need more baritones) or watch

the guard change smartly at noon

in the smoky throne room of the Ever-New,

no one will point out the ragged holes

that once upon a time, when time

made creatures hungry, indicated

surreptitious suppers in your sweater drawer.

Here, no moths destroy.

We have them otherwise attracted

in so much light.

Consider the Ravens [Luke 9: 58; 12:24]

I neither sow nor reap.

I dine at seed bags left in shade.

I drink from wells that pool

beneath the bucket’s ticking drip.

I am king of barns, emperor of silos.

I rise on grace and air.

I do not work for my buoyant bones,

my fat beak and sooty song.

I labor only for string and sticks,

for long dry grass and leaves

to build the ample nest you notice

here above your head,

the bed you sigh for

when night comes cold

and you, still in the open,

lie down under trees.

For nests I dare the breathless flight

between the slinking cat’s green eye

and small slung stones of boys.

And Wild Honey [Matthew 3:4]

The finger he crooked at soldiers who asked what must we do

The finger he would have used to loosen a lace had he thought himself worthy

The finger he pointed toward the Lamb and away from himself

The finger he shook in bloated Herod’s face saying no you may not

The finger he ran along the bars of his cell while waiting to get his answer

That finger blessed the bees drinking from desert flowers

That finger scoured the six wax sides of the cells of their combs

That finger now and then humbly accepted their stings

That finger turned orange with the bees’ orange honey

That finger was scented with honey: it smelled like honey all the time

The finger of John was sweet as the sweetness of God

Instructions to Ministering Angels [Mark 1:13]

The astringent is for his feet.
Clean the cuts, apply the salve,
wrap, then tie the ends.
No walking or climbing at all
for a whole day at least.

Here is bread, a pear, a flask.
Try to feed him something.
He won’t let you, I know;
he wants to be pure, but try.
He needs all his strength.

The new four-stringed kinura
is for you, the long flute too,
the drum and tambourine.
Play for him. He likes it,
as do jackals at night.

They all come then: the snake                                                       and scorpion, wolf and lion,                                                    slinking hyena and boar.
They crouch and coil on stubble
while he tries to pray.

If from zeal he will not touch
the meal we are sending,
you may set it out for them.
They will approach and eat.
When he sees that they shine

in the pale green light of stars,
he will feel more like himself.
The beauty of beasts will stir
the hunger of his flesh.
He will suffer then, and love.