The Evangelist

Reverend Jeffrey Carlyle Thomas sold used cars
before he found Jesus, and
before that, he spent three years in jail
for repeated indecent exposure offenses–
Showing his family jewels in public

Then, he found Jesus
Who washed away his sins
Cleansed his heart, and made him whole–One Sunday night
at the Cow Hollow Pentecostal Church, and
that same night, he was called–
Into the ministry to serve His Lord God

Now Jeffrey Carlyle Thomas is an evangelist, spreading
the Word of God to all who will listen–
Mostly to Jesus-starved congregations
in small country and inner city churches, where
folks don’t challenge your credentials to preach without a license, and
intercede on behalf of the Lord Almighty

I heard Reverend Thomas preach a dozen or more times, and
there’s no denying he has a gift with words, including
the Holy Scriptures–you would think
were handed straight on down to him, who
some call Jesus’ thirteenth disciple

Why old Paul Gurley, my Sunday School teacher, even went so far
as to say that Reverend Thomas’ initials are J.C.
same as you know who, and this is no coincidence, since
the Bible says “watch for signs of His Second Coming”
I thought that was a stretch, but
who’s to question a wise Sunday School teacher like Mr. Gurley?

Jimmie Burgess’ mom says that
Reverend Thomas has brought more than 100,000 sinners to Christ
Far more than the 5,000 folks fed by Jesus, so long ago
with the 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish
She claims it’s a known fact, and
we should be thankful Jesus sent the Reverend our way

Then one warm early September day
Our preacher, Tucker Holliday, received a phone call
from the preacher down in Coal Run, saying
that he had heard, from good authority
that Reverend Thomas wasn’t evangelizing anymore
Seems he got into trouble somewhere in Southern Indiana
for showing his private parts to two teenage girls

Reverend Holliday made a solemn announcement
at the next Sunday morning church service–
Seems he got a copy of the newspaper article, describing
the incident in Southern Indiana
He said a prayer of protection for all of us, reminding us
of our naturally sinful natures, and to heed the Word of God:
“May he that be without sin be the first to cast a stone”
Being an obedient congregation
A unanimous amen rose from all present
at the conclusion of Reverend Holliday’s prayer

The Thief

The Eighth Commandment–
Thou shalt not steal
And what did he do?
He stole her joy
With every breath he took–away
the very thing for which she lived

When he could longer care for himself
She brought him into her home–
Her most sacred place
Where her life was her own
The place she slowly healed, day by day
From his lifelong abusive words and ways

He still smoked–
In her bed, which she gave up to him
Because she had no other choice
He was her father–
The man whose seeds grew to become her
Inside her mother’s womb

The lung cancer had spread to his throat–
the channel carrying his venomous words–
to the scaly white lips that lived to hold a cigarette
and puff smoke like a volcano ready to blow

He blamed the doctor
for not making him quit years ago
She knew better–
because cigarettes and beer were his life–
his most sacred place
Where he hid from his daughter’s love
The torture chamber in which he lived
And day after day beat himself

She hated cleaning up after him
Not just the filled ash trays on the night stand
But having to hold him while he urinated, and
emptying the bedpan where twice a day
he spilled his foul guts

One morning, he struggled to urinate
Finally there was a stream
For just one second, she thought
he was grateful for her help, but
quickly she realized it was just his selfish body
savoring the relief of his empty bladder

He died on February 16th at 3:12 am
She was there with him, holding his cold boney hand–
the hand that never held hers as a little girl
The hand always ready to slap and hit her, and
anybody else making him feel loved

She didn’t cry
All her tears were used up years ago
She felt relief, when
the two emergency technicians lifted him from her bed–
the bed she vowed to dismantle, and burn
piece by piece in the trash barrel in her backyard
It would be her way of cleansing herself, and
forgiving the man who stole her joy

Just Like My Dad

The sunrise danced vibrant streaks of salmon, orange and red
Across the still dark, waking sky
Dad missed it, though Mom tried her best
to draw him out from under the covers
And join her on the front porch steps

This isn’t the first sunrise he’s missed
I don’t think I ever heard him talk about one
That he thought was worthy of his sober presence
But he even missed my junior high graduation last week–
An important sunrise in my life

The front screen door slammed shut
As my exasperated mother took in another sunrise alone
Things have gotten worse at home
since Dad went on permanent disability two years ago
They were never good, his drinking and all
He doesn’t even try anymore, to help himself
Or do anything useful

I resent him, his ugly self-pity
How he doesn’t shave for sometimes three days
How he won’t learn to live without his right hand
It’s only a hand I screamed to my mother
Who, like always, took his side over mine

His hand’s not the issue
He was selfish even with two hands
I loved baseball for a long time
All I ever wanted was for Dad to play catch with me in the front yard
So my friends could see my Dad spent time with me
That he loved me more than his whiskey

He fell down the basement stairs yesterday morning
Just as I was leaving for school
Mom rushed to him, as he lay on the cold basement floor
He blamed his fall on his missing hand
His breath reeked of whiskey
I knew otherwise
I listened as he cursed God for taking away his life

As I brushed my teeth this morning
I saw Dad in the mirror
His face was written all over mine
I cursed him and God
Because I knew then
I would turn out just like him

innocent eyes spotting a deer in the wildflowers

lone deer standing so very tall
amidst a patch of spring wildflowers
wearing, as they always do, long stems
and remarkable yellow-red headdresses

not a far off place, a simple place nearby
where spring makes its way past–
all the nonsense, indifferent faces
standing between you, me, and joy
transcending the imagined realities, even
the promises we hoped for as children
forgot as adults, yet
linger as ghosts in our souls

strange but it finally ends–all of it
the pretense, promises, misplaced and forgotten words
losing all effect, ultimately giving back to us
the innocent eyes that gave birth to us
those spotting the lone deer in the wildflowers

Unemployment Line

He impressed me–
the way he kept a smile
As he stood with the other hungry faces
With vacant downcast eyes
Wearing their defeated shoes with no laces
Shoes two sizes bigger than their feet

His smile, a sunbeam, spread
across his broad whiskered face
His determination gleamed through his faded blue work shirt
All the way down to his large muscular hands
That weren’t afraid of a sweat-stained shovel handle
Or to grip the sour-smelling rags, used
to clean the public toilets at 55th Street Station

I counted them–
One hundred and thirty-three men and forty-one women, waiting
to be chosen for work, any job
that would put a dime, hopefully a quarter in their pockets
Enough for a loaf of day-old bread, maybe some beans
If lucky, a can of oily sardines

I was glad they picked him
His smile set him apart from the others
I shouldn’t play favorites
Each one of them deserved a job
Some food for their families
A pair of shoes that fits