(January, 1999)

Copyright (c) 1998 First Things 89 (January 1999): 8, 32, 37.

The Winter Orchard

Say, my love, this world is whole:
a windfall here beneath the bole.
Or hold, my love, love’s time is now:
a flourish, then the fruit along the bough.

But O, my love, how hard to hold
bare thoughts of love in winter’s cold.
The apple limbs are bent and gray.
My love, O Christ, my love is far away.

—J. Bottum


Instant Replay

Staying home was easy
after the pulling guard
faked me wide
twice before half,
and the tailback cut back
and cleated the grass
I bulldozed with my nose.

I never forgot to hold my breath,
not even the first time
my father tossed me
off the deep end, Sink
or swim, he barked, and I sank
into his will and stayed at home,
a loyal son to my father,

who proved last month
history doesn’t always repeat—
dying, he stiff–armed the tackler
and dashed around end
out of bounds,
up through the stands
and over the distant hills.

—Walt McDonald


Satan in the Desert

Satan on the hills at a high place
looking to restore some kind of order
to perspective: "Look kid," he says, "it’s like this—
I make you an offer, you make a counter offer—
really, we shouldn’t even be talking
you sure you haven’t got an agent?"

Jesus looks out and lets his glasses
catch the last light on the mountains.
"I’m bigger," he says, "than all of this."
Then he jumps on the spot, not even near the edge and

Satan barely starts snapping his claws
for the ambulance, the greenmasked angels,
before he’s realized the little sod
just pretended to lose what he’d always
had well in hand, feet firmly in the dust.

Satan sighs and considers lunch
back in J City where the Baptist
still ain’t signed up. Jesus sings
and over clouds Satan’s tail twitches
from the breeze of a coming rival player’s outfit.

Crews start assembling round
the mock–up of a set and Satan wonders
what sequence his boys have dreamed up up there
for that crossed piece of firewood.

Rainclouds come and then a cloudburst
Satan wonders if that kid’s alright out there
alone, "Sure," he says, "that kid was born
to rule the desert."

Jesus claps his hands
and breaks the bread, the disciples chow down;
Judas goes out for a previous appointment.

The birds, hungry, wait on the branches.
Rainclouds swoop and swirl in the desert.
No one answers the calls of Satan’s phone
left lodged in the cracks of the fountain.

—Atar Hadari