Home > 3. My Poetry & Translations > Be Passersby (A poem & a book recommendation)

Be Passersby (A poem & a book recommendation)



Way back in 2007, RT had just moved into new digs in Martinsburg and was feeling his oats. Bored during lunch hour, he began to read around on Wikipedia’s pages dealing with religion, an exercise that taught him much and led to the acquisition of Marvin Meyer’s The Unknown Sayings of Jesus, which is a marvelous book. The book’s compact size and its scores of Jesus’s  teachings you might not have run across before are worth the purchase price by themselves. But the endnotes, in RT’s opinion, are even better, including sayings from the Manichean Psalm Book that, well, kind of blew RT away. Talk about gorgeous poetry!

Well, with all this inspiration, a poem had to be in the offing. Here it is, with Jesus’s shortest known saying as the title:





Be Passersby

The heart is a dog dead

*******for days


the children might venture

*******the self a bridge

********of what teeth;

****plausible answers, and

****honored, if not by

time, then by interpretation.


Then let us translate

****the law

*******he would correct

****as death translates the body:


forgetting possession

****peeling off the vestments of flesh

*******to walk as naked light

through the word

impeaching the brief flower

****with its glory.


From the storm

****of questions, sarcastic remarks,

*******people taking notes, eating,

rolling around

***************in the autumn mud,

something sensible would finally emerge–

“What about the dog?”



****or stiff and dumb

****they rise

at Gabriel’s command

****to chase the weeping sisters

**********************and their dove

****to climb as

*the milk of trees towards

the supple body

of sky.


We are words, he said,

*******that have been burnt.

Copyright © 2013, The Rag Tree

Engraving: The Star from the Vieville Tarot Deck, France, c. 1650. WikiCmns;


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