Ask Peter, ask Paul — the really unbearable part
was figuring out those hillbilly parables
We understood the straight stuff, “Blessed
are the peacemakers,” and such, but not
those constant “It is like unto’s . . .”
They always sent shivers through us—we knew
there’d be catechism after the sermon.
“It is like unto sowing seeds,” he’d say
in that Nazarene country drawl,
“some of them fall on good soil,
others on rock.” Well, everybody knows that,
but what did he mean by it?
He’d only say, “Who hath ears to hear,
let him hear.” Big help.
Or he’d say, “It is like unto a mustard seed
that grows into a huge plant.” Mmm-hmm.
He’d say, “The kingdom of heaven
is like unto leaven,” and so on.
And then, of course, that inevitable
“Who hath ears to hear,” etcetera.
We were always as nervous as cats in a doghouse,
John sneaking glances at James, James
dragging his toe in the sand and looking
at Thomas, Thomas looking doubtful,
all of us hoping that someone would understand.
But we never did, not one single time—finally
he always had to explain. “The field
is the world,” he’d say, his eyebrows grim
as a tax collector, “The good seed
are the children of the kingdom, get it?”
Oh, sure, it’s easy when you already
know the answer, but
suppose it’d been you, hearing
for the hundredth time
those words like needles in your nerves,
“It is like unto, it is like unto . . . ”
It drives you over the edge, finally, even
Peter claiming he didn’t know him,
and I . . . Well,
with or without those thirty pieces of silver,
it’s a wonder that none of the others
crossed him first.
From Perfidious Proverbs and Other Poems:
A Satirical Look At The Bible