Jesus Takes A Stroll - Poem by Jerry Buckley
Celebrity Jesus climbed down from a magnificent Franz Mayer window, and removed his clip-on halo. He washed his face and hands in the elegant alabaster baptistery, and turning his back upon the assembly of stained glass followers and paparazzi; he plodded out past rows of carved Flemish oak pews, and descended the front steps of the brownstone Cathedral of St. John Baptist.
He was reported to have mumbled, (to who knows who) as he rounded the corner of the well kempt grounds; “I know I am to be about my father’s business and all, but I need some space to myself; some small sanctuary of sanity where I can recharge, to reflect, to reconnect.” He nodded in respect to a statue of St. Francis feeding the birds, on his way out past the fountain.
Dispirited Jesus found his way to the walking tour of Charleston’s churchyards, gardens, and courtyards, seeking a respite from his tiresome ministry. He shushed away the trailing James and John, close on his heels, insisting that it was impolite for him to walk out on his audience in such a manner; implying that he had a contractual obligation to finish his lecture and provide lunch as advertised.
He sat for a while upon a concrete bench behind St. Phillips Episcopal Church, admiring its splendid steeple, pointing the way to heaven; high as any Tower of Babel. But the grounds were so formal here, so prim and proper, the grass groomed to perfection, the stepping stones edged and swept clean from the very appearance of evil; and his solitude was disturbed by echoes of sermons past.
Ambivalent Jesus weaved his way through moss draped live oaks until found himself admiring the harmonic Romanesque architecture that was Circular Congregation, surrounded on three sides by cemetery. He paused to contemplate arched tombs, burial vaults, and weathered slate headstones, many of them etched in skulls and crossbones, as if in tribute to a brigadier’s horde.
He shook his head in bewilderment at the confusing array of “death heads” and “soul effigies”, wherein Angel’s wings replaced cross bones, as if to emphasize the flight of the spirit, and skulls had been face- lifted and Botox treated, or chiseled into the likeness of Roman demigods, in vainglorious attempts to appear saintly, or to cover a multitude of sins.
Disconsolate Jesus distanced himself from the aura of the morose cemetery, and following an azalea defined pathway though yet another set of wisteria wrapped wrought iron gates, he bypassed the crowds assembled to tour the Gibbes Museum of Art - itself an alter unto Humanism - as he ducked into a fragrant secluded courtyard.
He admired the tastefully landscaped grounds, the geometrically balanced plantings of Japanese maple, holly, and cherry trees; accented with perfectly spaced groupings of adagio grass, of begonias, and inpatients, coleus and bee balm. Yet this was beauty according the eye of the beholder, an aesthetic fusion of man’s dominion upon the glory of nature. It bore very little resemblance to Eden.
Deliberate Jesus followed the sounds of a woodwind duo, along a myrtle lined promenade toward the Unitarian Church. He strolled past a prim row of well maintained brownstone townhouses, enchanged by the unfettered interplay of flute and oboe. Stepping into anothere enclosed yard, he paused and rubbed his eyes, as if in disbelief at what he was beholding.
He stepped into a confusing tangle of headstones and low iron fences; a half-acre overwhelmed with passion flower vines and phlox; a free-for-all of Jessamine and woodbine; sweet ferns, and yarrows, and Lantana bushes flashing in spastic arrangements. There was no order in the court here, no rhyme or reason; only the abundance of nature running free, left alone to follow the director’s baton.
Revitalized Jesus lingered in the cemetery; perhaps it reminded him of Gethsemane. He stooped to pull back some tangles of vines to read the inscriptions of hidden grave markers. He sat down upon a simple concrete mourner’s bench, and he spent an hour in reflection about his ministry; or was it a prayer to the Father? How, I wonder, does one really know where the one leaves off and the other begins?
He was witnessed walking over to the water spigot, where he opened the tap and took a deep drink of refreshment. Then Jesus thoughtfully filled the birdbaths in the side courtyard, before walking resolutely up the front steps of the church house; and tossing his halo aside, he stepped into a nondescript stained glass window, and began washing his disciples’ feet.
'Voice of One' @ Jerry Buckley
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