A Naked Boy

Spring, the garden a green fire burning
the earth. Woven from fine linen, the boy’s
loincloth is too thin for the gusts of wind
that still blow south from an icy north,
stinging its flowery things, withering blossoms.
The fig he picks from a near dead tree
is miraculously sweet, a happy omen.
But the moon’s as glum and pocked as the bald
pate of the Sadducee he serves, rising irate
from a late cold bath. Scattered about
the olive grove, the devotees lie sleeping,
snoring, wheezing, whimpering like the Romans
he also waits on, impossible to wake after
a guzzling feast or a long night’s carouse.

Behind him, soldiers march up the hill, the lord
he adores strangely prostrate as their torches
drip blood-red sparks on the bodies
of his followers who scare like hares or slaves
afraid of whips and lashings. Frightened, too,
of what the soldiers might do with their spears
and swords, the boy tries to run, but snags
his loincloth on a thorn that hook-like rips
it off him. He chases after the others, loses
them, finds only a cave to hide his nakedness
in, resting his head on a stone slab, soon
sleeping, dead to the world, coiled like a snake
in a basket only a wizard’s flute could coax
awake and make dance to its magical tune.

number 22 in the 2River Chapbook Series