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It is dark, Yeshua, in Jerusalem tonight,
and it is cold without the others here.
A bright-eyed convert came seeking Jude today,
and I had to tell her. It never stops hurting, relating how
it took eight Roman arrows to drive him to his knees,
where he venerated your name with cracked lips and grit teeth.
A man should never abandon faith in his god or
hope that his brother will one day return home, he said.
Denying his messiah would betray both principles, he said.
The soldiers claim that was the last thing he said,
but I know it was a hoarsely murmured Hebrew prayer
that your father taught the both of you when you were small.
The people of this city delighted in bludgeoning Matthias
folding stones into their children’s hands and cheering
as his sacrificial blood stained the cobblestones.
Forgive the Armenians, they didn’t mean to kill Bartholemew,
but the strips of flesh their whips tore from his body
did not prove blessed or impervious to attack.
He bled out raw and battered and sick with the thought of you.
Andrew showed more resolve, singing hymns
as he blistered spread-eagled in the Greek sun,
and Peter never lost an ounce of his zealotry,
demanding to be crucified upside down so
none may say he was worthy of your death, Yeshua.
Phillip followed in their suffocating footsteps, unremarkably.
Mark fell in Egypt, dragged behind a chariot,
Luke, near the Mediterranean, blue faced and tightly noosed,
and Matthew in Ethiopia, run through by foreign steel.
They perished in the hope that you would return any day now,
any instant. I do not think they understood.
I am the only one left,
an old man with nothing to give but fairytales bearing your name,
with no company but visions of the end and the hope that soon,
the end will find me.
So you must understand, Yeshua, that I cannot grant your wish.
I will pen revelations and prophecies until my bones turn to dust,
But you cannot ask me to recall Simeon’s laugh,
Peter’s infectious scheming, the tenderness of your mother,
the dark gleam of Mary’s hair as she danced in the firelight.
Your voice still rattles in the hollow spaces between my ribs,
I see the lines of your face in the paths of the stars
and that is pain enough, I think.
I am too old to argue, rabbi, and do not wish it on tonight of all nights.
Ask me tomorrow, when the moonlight does not make the river
look so much like the blood of my comrades.
Perhaps then I will not wish so much to join them.
Perhaps then I will be able to compose a gospel worth the telling.
— Lamentation of John (alternately titled Some Manuscripts Read: The Prophet does Not Come)