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(wc 954)

(I am so weary sir.)

Late, as always. I arrived too late.
But in my defense, it is my busiest time -
Passover; well, of course you know all about that.
Do you know how many children of Abraham, discreetly
want my services at this time of year?
So many being extra pious
to be seen by the right people, and
counted among the righteous, free from the stain,
they call it, of sin.

Anyway, they are all gossips in disguise, uncertain if
they should take sides, or stand back. They told me
I did not need to be early.
There was much to be said and done
before your fate would be decided.

“No stones left unturned” is on my shingle.
“If you need work done on your day of rest,
I am your man.”
(Discount for payment in advance.
After-Sabbath payment, full price.
Reasonable rates for regular customers!)
“My wife cooks on Saturday!
My daughters wash dishes on Saturday!”
(All those chores the truly pious women save
until the day they are not allowed),
All discreetly performed, for a fee.

(My shoulders ache, I am so tired, sir.)

“Piety will be preserved.”
So you see, I had to wait.  There are many who pay
in advance. (Discount when paid before sunset,
on Friday).

As I retired for the midday meal,
a strange darkness began to fall.
Too early for sunset, “There must be a storm coming,”
I thought, searching the sky for the shadows of clouds,
harbingers of rain, and more custom for me.
Rain on the Sabbath makes even me believe in a god.
But there are no clouds, and a more telling sign, no anxious servant
come to pay in advance for my services. In case of rain.
Instead they run, in terror, while I watch the sun melt away.
I noticed the righteous did not take time to cross the street as usual,
to avoid brushing against the sinners who run beside them.
What did I do, but stand rooted to the cobbled street?
My knees trembling

(I’ve been running so long, sir.)

with fear.  The earth began to echo the quaking of my knees, or
was it the other way around?  No matter; the cries for your god,
the screams of the women, moved me to drop everything
to run here; into the face of the disappearing sun that was
fixed now, hovering in darkness above the bluffs
outside the city gates.  I of course heard of your

(I am so weary, sir.)

trial – the cry of the crowd gathered at the governor’s palace;
there could be nothing good to come from such noise.
I was too busy to attend the side show.

(I feel like I’m almost gone, sir.)

I got the hushed and anxious account from those who left early
in disappointment or disgust, from those ashamed.  Ashamed
to watch you fail to save; ashamed to see the specter of defeat;
ashamed to have to watch you crawl in the mud and filth,
a crown of thorns circling your head like the corona
around the hidden sun; and too frightened to
watch Romans gloat in their absolute supremacy.
You were just another man who would be King,
the King of the Jews. Who are the fools here:
Those who believed you are David, returned to save his own?
Or those who find expediency in your death ?

(Where can I go now? What can I do?)

All over too soon.  I arrived too late to
ask for what you promised me.  But not too late
to see some soldier pull the sword out of your side,
to see the water of death, the flow of blood
rush out of you, to see that all that is left
is an empty vessel, broken and wasted.
And I remembered.
As heavy as the burden I bear, surely yours
is greater.  Why would a righteous man take on
such shame; how could a weak sinner like me
exchange my own yoke of labor for yours?
Had I accepted the exchange, must I die now too,
in fierce agony on some cross, with nails
in my hands and feet?  (And who would be there
for me, then? Would anyone have broken an alabaster jar
of perfume to anoint my feet?  Would there have been
even for me, some quiet moment of shade and rest,
beneath some ancient willow?)

Is that your easier yoke?
Your lighter burden?  Your burden scares me, sir.

(I am too tired for my own, sir.)

In respect for your mother and your loved ones,
I will not dare to approach, nor offer my services.
I would not defile them in their grief.

(Surely they are weary now too, sir.
Whose burdens do they bear, sir?)

I must go home.  My wife is waiting for the
discount seekers, the before-Sabbath payment
of the righteous. She must be weary too, sir.

Tell me sir:
Am I too late to ask for peace and rest?
If you are listening, if you can hear,
if you return as I heard it said you had proclaimed -
May I ask you then?  If it’s really not too late,
If I can keep on carrying this heavy load
a while longer, enough that I might ask you, sir,
for that exchange? When you arise, sir

(I am too tired to dismiss the possibility.)

will you please look me up?  I am not
too far from the city gates, west of here. . .
No.
I think I’ve grown too weary
to stay here any longer.
Too weary to wait anymore.

Might I ask for that exchange now, sir?

********************

Submitted as part of Wordle #60 (Happy Diamond Jubilee, Brenda!).

My Gentle Readers, I wish you all enough. . .

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