Parabola is proud to again present the annual winners of the Poetry of the Sacred Contest (2021), chosen by the Center for Interfaith Relations.
– The Editors
Beast of Burden
I carried the Virgin for seven days
through wet grasses, green slopes,
each stone poised on the path
was an opportunity for me to misstep.
At my own birth, an angel
said to me: you will enter
the pasture of God
so long as you do the work
I ask of you. First it was bushels,
dried figs, red bricks, then Her.
The weight was different,
the night warmer, every branch
bowed away from us, shyly
into itself. Later, just under
my nose, the boy laid in
the same manger I ate from,
while his mother steadied herself
on my shoulder, the two of us
no longer certain of our place.
I was born a month after my country flagged
the moon. Once, young, drunk, and lonely,
I tried to follow a star but lost it in the smog.
I have seen the signs. They say Hell is Real,
His and Herpes, and Welcome to Indiana.
The other night as dinner steamed on
our plates I said Dear Lord and my son said
Shut the Hell up once and for all and my daughter
said Amen. Abel God loved. Cain He hated.
Adam & Eve must have had such mixed feelings.
I keep wanting to deserve grace,
which makes no sense, I know.
Bows in her hair, smoke in her eyes,
the first girl I loved existed only in a song.
I want the other ark, the one with unicorns,
yeti, two cyclopses gazing into each other’s eye.
The pastor has writer’s block because
last Sunday he overheard someone say
My favorite part of the sermon was when
it ended, and he heard someone else say Amen.
Well, some of us did anyway.
But like beans who’ve reached
The top of the trellis
We spin crazily around
Looking for purchase
Some handhold higher
Than we’ve been.
And didn’t we make a useful
And didn’t we forget it was meant
For more than just convenience.
This excerpt appears in our Winter 2021-22 issue, “The Golden Rule.” Purchase the issue here.