SAVING JESUS

SAVING JESUS

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I am Ángel Nagual. I will be a man soon. My village, Campo de la Estrella (Field of the Star), was once a Spanish Misión (Mission) before the break with Spain a generation ago. The Spanish priests were persecuted after the revolution. My village now keeps our own faith in our own homes.

Into my village one late afternoon walked a poor man with his woman holding a child. My father, Patecatl , met these strangers outside of the old Capilla (Chapel). The red tiles of that Capilla were molded and baked by my people when they were slaves.

The man says to my father, “I am José Jacobeo. This is my wife María.”

Patecatl, my father, observes, “This is a hard road to travel on foot with a woman and a child.”

The man, José, says, “It is a hard road even with a horse. Our horse was killed by a puma.”

The woman, María, speaks up into the conversation of men, saying, “God, himself, compels our journey.”

My father says wryly, “Do you flee your God?”

José glances over his shoulder and he says, “God is our strength.”

María says urgently, “We flee Poncio Pilato.”

My father is surprised and then he smiles, saying, “Poncio Pilato is only a story that bandidos tell to their children when they are disobedient.”

The child in María’s arms begins to cry.

My father leans over the child and he whispers sweetly, “My name is Patecatl, little one. What is your name?”

María says, “We have named him Jesus.”

My father raises his eyes to María’s gaze.

José says, “For protection.”

María pleads, “We need a place to rest.”

My father reflects upon their fear and their supplication and he says finally, “Of course. Of course. The old Church is used for our livestock, but the altar stage is free and clean. Please. You are welcome to stay as long as you feel you must.”

Then my father turns to me and says, “Ángel, see to our guests, please.”

I lead José and María with their child Jesus into the old Church. The sheep and the goats stir in the straw. Chickens roost in the rafters and up on the old cast-iron arañas de luces (literally, spiders of lights, chandeliers). On the altar stage I spread clean straw for them. I leave them a basket for Jesus and a clay jar of water upon the altar. María places little Jesus into the basket upon a mound of straw. She covers her face. José comes to her side and holds her in a comforting embrace. I leave them to their privacy.

I return to my father in our room in the old Capilla. I ask him, “Father, who is Poncio Pilato?”

My father shakes his head slowly and says, “Poncio Pilato is a legend among the mestizos (half-breeds). He is a demon bandido, the saint of outlaws.”

I ask, “Is he like Yaotl (Aztec god, Sewer of Discord)?”

My father grimaces and says, “No. No, Yaotl rewards the valiant even as he is the patron of discord. Poncio Pilato is like the Spaniard’s Devil, or should I say, like the Devil’s son,” then my father snorts, “ …like the Spanish priests.”

I finally ask, “Why would Poncio Pilato chase two poor people and their child?”

My father answers me with a patient smile, saying, “He wouldn’t,” and then he offers me in consolation, “Unless they have something he wants.” Then my father pauses and he says to himself, “Or they have taken something from him.”

The sunset is blood red and my father observes, “There is a dust storm to the West.”

We hear a scream. It is María!

My father and I run from the Capilla onto the altar stage. There José is restraining María who reaches screaming toward the child in the basket upon the altar.

My father hollers, “What is wrong…?” but in that instant we see the scorpions!

An army of black scorpions is scaling the altar, climbing onto the child’s basket. The scorpions halt their advance in a halo radiating around the child Jesus. The innocent child is enchanted by his wiggling visitors and he laughs with delight and he reaches for the nearest scorpions. The scorpions raise their claws but they remain just out of the reach of Jesus.

Suddenly a voice rumbles from the road outside the Church, calling, “María!”

María now faints to the floor in the embrace of José.

My father hisses, “Wait here!” but I follow him out of the Church to the road.

There are horsemen shuffling on the dark road. A man rides forward. He is enormous. I gasp when I realize that under his sombrero he is wearing an Aztec sacrificial mask of jade mosaic. The plaster eyes stare relentlessly.

My father composes himself and asks, “What do you want from my poor village?”

The enormous horseman leans forward and says, “I want what is owed to me, priest. I am Poncio Pilato.”

My father holds his composure and replies, “I am not a priest. I am Patecatl, the medicine man. What do we possess that is owed to Poncio Pilato?”

Poncio Pilato answers saying, “The child.”

My father asks boldly, “How is that innocent child ‘owed’ to you?”

Then the other horsemen ride forward ominously. Poncio Pilato points to each rider as they come to his side.

Poncio Pilato says, “This is Despiadado.”

I realize in horror that his eyes are sewn shut.

Poncio Pilato says, “This is Avaricio.”

I see that instead of eyes there are gold coins in his eye sockets.

Poncio Pilato says, “This is Lujurio.”

I see that his mouth is elongated like a horse and his lips are enormous and his tongue hangs out.”

Poncio Pilato concludes stating, “The child is Lujurio’s. He was enticed by the nun María in her daydream as she pretended to pray,” and Poncio Pilato scoffs, saying, “She was a willing virgin.”

Behind us I hear José exclaim, “Then it is all true!”

My father and I turn to see José supporting the unconscious María.

José ponders out loud, “María said it was a miraculous conception. She was afraid. She came to me for protection. I, I was in love with her before she became a nun. I didn’t believe her, but I didn’t care. I still loved her. But it is all as she told me!”

Poncio Pilato laughs coarsely and says, “I have heard this story somewhere before!”

María regains consciousness enough to mutter, “What will you do with my child?”

Poncio Pilato leans forward and says quietly, “The child belongs to me now,” and then he laughs, “You were a good hen, but this huevo (egg) belongs to me. Me costo un huevo (literally, it cost me an egg, it cost me a hell of a lot)!

My father speaks up, “Poncio, tiene huevos (do you have balls) enough to wager?”

Poncio Pilato sits erect in his saddle and his horse snorts and stamps.

My father continues, “I wager that you have no power over the child Jesus since he is truly innocent. I wager that your minions, such as the scorpions, can not harm him because his blood is half evil.”

Poncio Pilato growls, saying, “Be careful with your last words, medicine man.”

My father is unafraid, saying, “Only María can give the child to you willingly. Am I right? All you can do is terrorize us into forcing María to yield him to you,” and my father turns toward María and stares.

María is dashed sober by my father’s implications, and she cries, “No! No, no!” and she pushes herself away from José’s loving grasp. She runs stumbling back into the Church. José cries, “María!” and regaining his balance he runs after her.

I look to my father and he turns to me and says, “Stay where you are.”

I hear María screaming. I hear José wailing.

My father says again, sternly, “Stay.”

I then see José stumbling back out of the Church and he falls to his knees before my father, wailing and pulling his hair, crying, “María is dead! She has thrown herself upon the altar and the scorpions devour her! María! What have you done? María! What have you done, Patecatl?”

My father turns back to Poncio Pilato who grumbles, “Medicine man, you are as ruthless as Despiadado.”

My father replies, “But my eyes are sewn open. Only sacrifice defeats evil. Only sacrifice is holy. We own nothing in this world except our will.”

I am transfixed by the words, by the will of my father.

José grovels inconsolable in the dust.

But another rider approaches from the darkness. I stumble backwards. It is María! Or what was once María.

Upon a horse the color of ash sits an apparition of María. From her eye sockets flow two springs of tears. She joins the horsemen of Poncio Pilato.

Poncio Pilato pronounces, “Her name shall be Lacrimosa,” and he turns to my father and says slyly, “You are very generous with the souls of others.”

My father replies, “Poncio Pilato, you do not have their souls. You have only their sins.”

And then Poncio Pilato and his horsemen rode away with the wind.

My father welcomed José to stay on with our village, but José was too heartbroken to remain for long. José left Jesus with my father and my father made me Jesus’s keeper. Jesus is a little brother to me now and I worry all the time about his fate.

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ON THE DEATH OF JOHN LENNON


ON THE DEATH OF JOHN LENNON

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“I’m shot! I’m shot!” plays loudly from the record console as John Lennon emerges from the fog and shadow. He covers his ears and stares at the source of the grotesque song.

A figure in a long robe of red appears from behind the record console. The figure reaches out his hand and the grotesque song is silenced.

RED-ROBED FIGURE

“A bit primal, but it was a big hit on earth.”

JOHN

“Who are you?”

RED-ROBED FIGURE (laughs and extends his hand)

“John Lennon, I am Jesus Christ.”

JOHN (shaking his hand)

“You?”

JESUS

“Do you remember?”

JOHN

“Yeah. I’m bigger than you again this December.”

JESUS (wincing)

“True. But your message is mine. That is, most of it is mine. Some rewording was necessary to reach your times.”

JOHN

“Yeah. Goo-goo Goo-joob, y’all. So this is Heaven? Excuse me but I didn’t expect…”

JESUS (gesturing all around)

“Heaven? No, John. This is the Heart. We all meet here.”

JOHN (angry)

“Fuckin’ expensive ticket-to-ride, Mr. J. C., sir.”

JESUS

“Hey, buddy, you went fast. The world cared. I went slow, speared, and naked.”

JOHN

“So who are you workin’ for now?”

JESUS

“I am still with the Self we all claim.”

JOHN

“Yeah? So are there guitars here or what?”

JESUS (smiles again)

“No. Whatever sounds you imagine can be made real. Just let it be.”

JOHN

“I’ve heard it before.”

JESUS

“Go on. Try it.”

JOHN (his eyes going misty. Oh, Yoko plays happily from the music console. It stops abruptly. He sighs.)

“Is..?”

JESUS

“No, John. Here we are still within Time. Yoko will be along later.”

JOHN (voice cracking)

“So what now, Big Brotha’?”

JESUS

“That is always for you to decide.”

JOHN

“Believe it or not, eh?”

JESUS

“Come on, John. All you need is love.”

JOHN

“All you’re gonna need is a good lawyer if you keep rippin’ off lines from my songs.”

JESUS AND JOHN (both laugh together)

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THE BALLAD OF HARRY PALMS

THE BALLAD OF HARRY PALMS

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His life was sweet no more because
His job two years ago
Was lost in economic storm.
Now, he was out of dough.

The winter came to reap his shame,
Unwelcome as he was,
Within his daughter’s basement, where
“Apply for Santa Claus”,

His daughter and her boyfriend gnawed,
“You’ve got to pay some rent!”
“But, we are Jewish!” Harry kvetched.
Yet up the stairs he went

Into the hall and out the door.
The blizzard was a shock.
The once and future Harry Palms
Behind him heard the lock.

His breath condensed into his beard,
His cheeks with cold did burn.
He got onboard the empty bus
Some money for to earn.

He got out at the Shopping Mall;
The stores so gaily lit.
Before he could apply himself
He had to give a shit.

Beside the bathroom stalls he stopped
And saw two men a’kissing.
He grabbed their collars, banged their heads.
They beat him. Teeth a’missing,

Still Harry Palms had got the job
Of Santa Claus, First Shift.
“I guess my life is now complete”.
His pride he had to sift,

Like cat-box turds, beside his bed,
The night he set the clock
For five AM to catch the bus.
He couldn’t find his cock.

As Santa Claus he did preside
Above the World Toy™ scenes
For Children of Jerusalem,
Sponsored by Marines.

All day long the shoppers climbed
To leave their gifts of toys
And sit their children on his lap.
He almost lost his poise

When three young Persian girls appeared
In line to visit him
Dressed like ornaments with jewels
And voices like a hymn.

“I am Sofa Kush” one spoke
“And these, my sisters, be
Avesta and Daeva”. Wise
Beyond her beauty she

Was dressed in gold, Avesta white,
And Daeva shaped in red.
The three of them leaned to his ears
And this is what they said:

Daeva: “Listen closely now,
To warn you we have come”.
Avesta: “Toys you gather here
Will harm Jerusalem”.

Said Sofa: “It’s the TNA”.
But Harry looked bemused.
“The Terror Net Alliances.
And we three stand accused

Of being traitors to our lords;
Mawlas, to whom we’re wives,
Will surely stone us three to death.
We offer you our lives:

Please help us save Jerusalem.
Allah’ cannot want this:
There are the toys that will explode
And open the Abyss.”

Poor Harry sat there so confused
Because their Sirens’ voice
Had spun enchanting arabesque
That left him with no choice

But to believe them; was he nuts?
They clearly were afraid
Of something that was going down
That wasn’t a charade.

He turned to find the host Marine
Did have his weapon drawn
And pointed at his geezer brains.
The three young girls were gone.

The mothers screamed and children ran
In chaos so appalling
The soldier had to drop his gun;
The Christmas Tree was falling

Onto his head. The needles rained
And stuck him in the eyes.
He fell down to his knees and screamed
Vile curses to incise

Whoever had pushed o’er the Tree.
He swore in Farsi tongue
To cut the heart of those who laughed:
Three Persian girls so young

They could not hide their merry laugh,
For they had done the deed
To no Marine: a terrorist
Who thought he could mislead.

Poor Harry Palms had tumbled back
And fallen from the lair
Of Santa Claus, onto the floor,
At circling stars to stare.

“You must arise and follow us”,
He heard the Angel say.
She looked a lot like Sofa Kush
And so he did obey.

Into the Manger Scene they fled
And lifted Baby Jesus.
A trap-door opened at their feet,
So down there Harry squeezes.

Below, past tense and present fear
A tunnel lead them out
The Service Exit Door. The girls
The parking lot did scout

As if they knew what should be, they
The World Toy™ truck did see
Without a guard nearby. Not luck:
Avesta had the key.

So off they went with reckless speed.
On, Daeva! Sofa Kush!
Avesta! And on, Harry Palms,
But watch your sorry tush!

“Where do we go?” did Harry cry.
He saw they were pursued
By someone in a Cadillac.
He was not in the mood!

His basement room seemed pretty good,
Retreating in his mind.
If he could just get out of this
He nevermore would find

A fault within his broken life.
It always can be worse!
To Harry, like the Bible’s Job,
Jehovah seemed adverse,

Because just then they overturned
The World Toy™ truck and smashed
Right through the lobby, where the staff
Of Trumpet Towers dashed.

A shroud of smoke concealed the four,
Untangled from debris.
Avesta, Daeva, Sofa Kush,
And Harry all did flee

Into the elevator car,
Penthouse Floor they keyed
To where the Persian girls did live.
It cost not chicken feed.

But suddenly their motion stopped,
The elevator dead
One floor below the penthouse suite.
They exited instead

And ran into the studio
Of KABL Radio.
The three girls knew the DJ well.
The DJ exhaled, “Whoa”.

Kid KABL Rock, as he was known,
Did listen to the girls
As he stared at Santa Claus,
His stoner mind in whorls.

He locked-up tight the studio
In record time, for then
Upon the door fell pounding fists
Of several angry men.

Kid KABL Rock was monitoring
The evening TV news
That pictured Harry (Santa Claus)
“Police uncovered clues

That Santa Claus had helpers who
Conspired to steal each toy
Donated for Jerusalem
Baseerah, Hebrew, Goy.”

The World Toy™ lawyers fed the news
And Sofa Kush just knew
They had to broadcast their own side
To rescue what was true.

Kid KABL Rock was ‘way ahead
And sat down at the mike
To spread the “Siege of Santa Claus”
Which children wouldn’t like.

The children listened everywhere
To hear their hero speak.
Kid KABL Rock laid down the scene
And it was getting bleak:

“Our door those men are battering down,
With force to hit home-runs.”
Kid KABL Rock beseeched the kids
To get their parent’s guns.

“Come up to Trumpet Towers, all!
To station KABL Rock!
Help us to save Santa Claus!”
He rallied them ad hoc.

Avesta cried “Time’s running out!”
But Daeva had a scheme,
“If Kid can hack the broadcast net
We can send a beam

That reaches to Jerusalem
Before they land those toys.”
Kid KABL Rock was on the case;
“His talent he employs”,

Said Sofa Kush, “to hack for fun
The broadcast net before.”
Avesta held a cell-phone high,
“I took my husband’s phone.

It has the code to detonate
The high-explosive bombs,
Before the children have to die
And grief consume their moms.”

But Harry saw the door give-in
And shatter to the floor
As men crashed through and aimed their guns
Upon the other four.

What happened next was like dream
As Harry leapt between
The gunmen and the other four,
Screaming, so obscene,

As bullets patted Harry Palms,
And so did Santa slay,
Avesta plugged the cell-phone in
Where Kid KABL did say,

As Sofa Kush a doll did throw
Toward a gunman’s face,
Avesta pushed the icon dial
And blew the coup de grace,

So fire ate alive those men
And ruptured in the lobby.
The plane above Jerusalem
Was hailing Abu Dhabi,

When in a super-nova blast
It blew to smithereens
And starred above, just like all those
Nativity night scenes.

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