24 December 2008

Wise Man's Trip

We make our way, deliberately,
From east to west desperately seeking
A tree under which to place our gifts –
Gold, frankincense, myrrh—
For a child born and living
In a land once flowing
With milk and honey, following
A wandering star, westward, leading
To that land whose inhabitants arrived
Long ages ago on eagles’ wings
And now is trampled under strangers’ feet
(like salt without savor),
By a nation foreign to every covenant.
And we ponder, still we ponder
The meaning of it all—
One people, out of thousands,
This land of all lands,
and the strange legends
Of a Lawgiver, divinely inspired prophets—
Persecuted—
God-selected kings—
Faithless and disloyal,
And of this child
And his star,
Dancing in the sky,
Signing with the constellations,
For those with eyes to hear.

Weary of singing, “A thousand jars
Of wine on the wall”
We debate the importance of it all:
The selection of this land and people,
(stiff-necked and stubborn – could not
God have done better?).
The cause eludes us
Why the land was granted
And a nation created --
Just to raise up a people
Out of rocks and stones
(like pulling a rabbit
From an old silk hat
In a cosmic magic show)?
Surely, we think, no.
These supposed events
Were not without some significance,
However mysterious, incomprehensible.

Bearing gifts we traverse afar
Searching for a little fat man
In a little red suit, driving
A miniature sleigh pulled
By eight tiny reindeer.
Certainly, we think,
This man must know what it’s all about –
This child born king of the Jews.
“Perhaps we shall find him,”
The little fat man, “before the child
In humble adoration, devoutly kneeling."
Seeking, like we, a better country,
With a better king, not like the usual
Administration – devouring his people,
(The people are his;
The livestock are his;
The land is his)
Claiming divinity for himself,
Copulating madly to perpetuate
His godly line—

O King may you live forever and
Et cetera,
Et cetera,
Et cetera.

Over field and flood
And moor and mountain
We listen to a tedious tale
Told by a magic snowman
With a button nose,
A corn cob pipe,
And two eyes made of coal,
And who knows all about it—
The buying and selling,
The deadly stampeding
For what thieves can steal,
And moth and rust destroy;
The children, screaming,
Clutching cubit-long lists;
The hoping, tragic and ironic,
For a little peace on the earth,
Goodwill to men;
Some manifestation of the spirit
Of the true
And obscure
Meaning of the season
For which generic greetings
Are exchanged,
The tidings of comfort and joy
(Let nothing dismay you,
Somehow);
And as always, the not-comprehending
Why peace and goodwill
Are not forthcoming.
“Can you truly hope,”
I ask our hitch-hiking snowman,
“To find such things where men say,
‘Let us make bricks
And construct
An everlasting city
And establish for ourselves
An everlasting Name’?”

“We have seen his star in the east,”
We explain upon our arrival,
“And have come to worship him.
“Where shall we find
“Your new-born king and ours?”
And no one seems to know or care
About anything but eating and drinking
And marrying and giving in marriage,
The typical power – now troubled
By the thought, “The party may soon be ending.”
Scrolls untouched perhaps for decades
are sought and dusted and searched;
An answer is forthcoming.
And we continue as we set out:
Alone, to see and worship
Their new-born king.

In Bethlehem we find him,
Thanks to certain poor shepherds
To whom the first Noel was said,
A snot-nosed toddler, prancing about
In soiled diapers.

Is this what we came all this way for?
What? A king with no palace, no crown,
No purple robes, no servants attending?

“What sort of king,”
I say to my companions with me,
“Can this be?”

It seemed, long ago,
An uncommonly silly way
To save the world,
A stupid way to make the crooked straight,
To justify the ungodly
And redeem the abandoned.

The eldest among us cautions:
Recall the star. Can it have misguided?
It points to this place and to this child.
Recall the scrolls. Can they have deceived?
If star and scroll say, ‘Behold’
Then shall we not behold?
Shall we now abandon star and scroll
In favor of some self-flattering ordinary regime,
With its palaces and crowns and robes,
Fawning court-scholars serving
Ravenous wolves on thrones?
I saw fear and loathing in Jerusalem:
Better this child, in such mean estate,
Than that monstrosity.

I had just then a vision:
A thorn-stuck brow,
Nails through hands and feet,
A spear in the side,
Blood and water—
Will this one die, slain by wolves,
For nothing?

So many long years later,
My companions both gone,
Again to see the child
(who prepares a place),
And I await another journey,
Or another advent, coming
Like lightning from the east,
Flashing even to the west,
A coming in clouds,
A blowing trumpet,
And the gathering together
From the four winds.
I would be happy
Just now indeed to see
A second coming.

James Frank Solís

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James Frank Solís
Former soldier (USA). Graduate-level educated. Married 26 years. Texas ex-patriate. Ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America.
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