Collision 51: May, 2020

Image from the series CVCHRONICLES, © Chaz Maviyane-Davies —

lazaretto (after lucille clifton)

Tsitsi Jaji

this draft is overdue—no more dodging this dead line. there’s been a lot of jesusing in these parts of late. the sorting and the weighing, crypts and golden rulers. snowy rams and spotted goats. sometimes a hand is staid, sometimes a stake plunges before the price sinks in. the word arrived in winter, kept quiet as a squatter’s crib— an eastern flare unheralded. *the rube rarely looks there for guidance. when he does, he sees red, or green. this jesus takes himself literally— the cradle of his clannish cross rocked the bosom of the south, and now it tilts the middle west. (i’ll grant this is a monger’s tale. history’s slander slips off the tongue, too easy. too true). who is worth the blame? what whipping boy, the old game goes? but first, the story goes, a man carries the name his father gave him. often his mother held more sway. hips sundered, sheets of muscle flayed, her word goes last. she beat death to it: life comes first, or never. so this so-called servant of god—ghebre, yesus—all the moses we can muster, scaled the alps. who can find his Abyssinia on a map of war? who has not seen his name in script? learn the koan of peacekeepers: he who will not choose a foe makes enemies of all. in the end, time catches those who lag behind. spent healers collapse as book jesus did, lulled by summer storms, shaken up by others’ fears. now, here, a cruel trumpet blares one false note after another. easter’s tide proved him wrong, his apothecary is alchemist and thief. second foolery’s counterproof: a city turned inside out. men and women waited out the northern frost to cast their lot in with each other. they marched in place. soon jesus cut-outs pop up in the heart land, brush wood for the fire pots installed on senate steps. some jesus, this! faint wonder mourners slap down this breaking news, this window, this stone wall of stony silence, orphaned on a screen— comfort bears new fangs. give us that old-timey stuff: whatever was given to the least of these comes back to smite the giver. i’d pelt his towers with midas’s nuggets, as if that would do anything. as if metaphor was no cheap shot, color rubbed off of language. in time, some jesus is visited on the prisons. the ratios invert. if one in ten came back rejoicing, if one hundredth came back to praise, the others did not come back. no one called them home. a number will say the greediest were spared only what greed would spare. a pox does not choose. a plague is plagued by blindness. physicians do not heal themselves, theirs is such ordinary light. their seal, infamous scrawl, certifies the time of birth, and death. they claim no immunity, they find no asylum except in ours. their teeth, their eyes, their breath, their calling swears and swears its oath. if your jesus came back now, i’d ask that he turn the wine back into water, and fasting eclipse famine that ash dignify what gives lie to lime— that great equality that blessings flow with no reservation, here, now, every where, that the mary marys martha grief, that the magdalenes be spared this mineral wealth that they might keep their olive gloss, their breaths of lavender, the sweet things of life. i’d ask that book lovers learn to read, that cycles hold cows less sacred than the essentials: sanitation workers, grocery clerks, farmhands, orderlies such as these. i’d ask just where do you want them to go, sent down hungry by decree? i’d go overboard. i’d ask what took you so long? what made you think if these would find the way to you they would want it? why? what good is this to you? what crown is worth its cost? what is this there there, this us and them, this frame in which we each are figure, ground, serpent, goat, marauder, and the left behind, rasping kum ba ya? jesus. oh black jesus, do not pass us by— we, dead upon arrival.