POETRY: Jesus And The Carrion Path by Franz Werfel

POETRY: Jesus And The Carrion Path by Franz Werfel

And when we’d put the dead dog behind—
Upon its teeth the Lord had lectured lightly—,
He spurred us from this ocean-sound up
The mountain. Gasping, we crawled after.

And once he’d reached the peak
And we’d come up some steps in back,
He pointed out the paths at our feet
That shot in a storm to the plain below.

We each thought one of them especially soft.
Didn’t it fly down the fastest?
So when Jesus turned around to ask us,
We all shouted, “Take that!”

He only nodded. Then off he went.
We shivered with joy to be alive,
To be touched by air melting green into green,
In eddies of olive and almond.

Suddenly crumbling walls loomed in our path.
In the middle, a dark tower.
The Savior pushed open the gate.
He waited while we stepped through.

And then something happened that slammed our eyes shut,
That stuck us like trees to the spot.
Before us was a flood of dead stuff.
The sun danced on its sucking surge.

Half-chewed rats swam in a tangle
Of snakes, themselves half gnawed away—
Putrid deer and donkeys and a shiny cloud
Of plague and flies.

Such a sulphurous stink
Bubbled up from the stew
That we heaved forward on the yellow grass
To vomit in fear and disgust.

But the Savior straightened up,
Crying to heaven again and again,
“My God and father, hear me. Save me
From my loathing. Bless this horror!

“I call myself Love.
Then why does my stomach turn too?
Oh, I’m emptier than a used-up whore,
More packed with sterile nonsense than a fool.

“My father—if you are my father—you—
Let me somehow love these rotten things.
Let me read your mercy in this carrion.
Can there be love where there’s still disgust?”

And see! Suddenly his face exploded
In those familiar surges,
And then light on light tangled at the top of his head
So that dazzled, we turned away.

Then—kneeling he buried his hands
In the reeking slop of rats and mice.
Then—from his whiteness
We smelt something deeper than roses.

He wove his hair with rotten pieces
And crowned himself with crawling things
He hung a hundred little corpses from his belt
And from his shoulders draped dead bats.

The day was dark. But as he stood,
The mountains split,
Lions wept at his feet,
And wild geese swooped down to him in streams.

Four dark suns danced above.
From behind, a steady, broader ray.
The heavens opened. God’s dove hovered,
Lifted by the blue universal breeze.

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