the brow of nazareth

by jim perkinson, ps 71: 1-6, lk 4:21-30, performed at st. peter’s episcopal church (detroit, mi), 1-30-22

“they lead him to the brow of the hill
that they might throw him off”
says the lectionary text for the
4th week-take on epiphanies and magi
and comet-streaked skies of the season
but they failed to catch the snatch—
the orator at nazareth was a rock-kvetched
match for their outraged snit, hatched
like a birthed-again chic from rugged
outcrop, spirit-born and dove-mourned
just back from a 40-day stretch

cached in a wadi-cherith batch
of jagged-toothed crotches,
schooled in his retreat, by the pigeon-
shaman wing-beat and talon-sharp
feet, driving the would-be prophet
to repeat elijah-trained feats of
finding vision in the cracks
voices in the peaks, trances
prancing in ancestral moans
groaning towards the feast
once anciently seated in unscarred
land and reed-nurtured waters
but now cleaved by clear-cutting
swatches and hard-paved roads and
imperial troves of wheat loaves stolen
from the foreclosed fields of the poor
the baptist-taught novice, soon
destined to announce himself as door
but for now still taking in the core
of storm-cloud augur and thunder-voice
roar directing him to more accurate
reading not of the lore of the spore of
isaiah, but the floor of the houses he cut
and tore from the chalkstone quarry
next door to cana, no longer to ignore
the persona and genius, the ladder-sign
witness, given jacob in the wilderness
on trek for a bride, chopped in his pride
dreaming angels on ascent, climbing a
desert chert, shiny as a flint-yurt dripping
oil of olive like a liquid skirt, it is stone
that the patriarch set up as testament and
bread-giving certificate, beth-el provision
from canaanite practice of learning
from the soil and escarpment, it is stone
that galilean jesus works into living homes
for his compatriots, and it is stone in the
canyon east of jordan that just taught him
his mission and reason for living, wild now
and freed from serving tool-tasks as weapon
and wall and womb for human desire to be
rain-protected and room-secured and warm,
yes, the messiah is stone-born and tested
learning that rock can grant einkorn-eating
and rock, even enslaved in temple-shape,
give revelation and sacred titillation, and
rock in mountain height and might, the
ultimate site of “royal” and politique giving,
flushing nutrient and drink, gene-diversity
and rhythm, without exclusion to every
downstream creature and root, like a deity
come straight from heaven, with life, and
meat, and benefaction in her hands—the
nazareth man is a basalt-reborn jam played
like a jubilee-horn made of sand and wind
and nomad ken and savvy, championing
now widows and aliens and enemies—and
they would get rid of him by taking him up
to a rock cliff to stone him out of existence?
ha! granite had become tutor and buffer
and bulwark! if only they had been good
episcopalians and read the
rest of the lectionary pairing—it says so clearly that
god is a rock and a crag and a stone-ringed
on-high clearing! what were they thinking?

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