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The Good Shepherd


Let me be leaden,
I don't have a shred of courage left.
I can't have or be
or live or die,
I can neither go in or out.
When I clamor for God, He sends me back to time,
to receipts which
—by order of the government—
I must demand of shady shopkeepers.
Why all this weight on my shoulders?
I didn't ask to be the inspector of the world,
I want to sin, to be free,
leave the thieves
to their tax obligations.
Everything is forbidden,
there's nowhere for me to be,
it's as if God's smacking me around,
pushing me away—
and if asking for help is a sin,
then not asking is insane,
the same as accepting help from the Devil.
Who is this stranger I call Jonathan?
Good God, who am I?
Scorpius is high in the sky—
in happier days I'd write a line:
"The blaze of Scorpius in the chill of night."
Now, it just sounds like flattery,
the words of a liar,
a windbag coward.
You won't believe this
—if you think you're reading a poem—
but someone just handed me a letter:
"I had dentures put in today,
and I do look younger,
but the old-person weariness persists."
And my terror vanished—
because in quoting the letter
I corrected two words,
and no one at the gates of hell
looks to grammar for help.
Thus once more I'm saved by a power,
a compassion
employing the constellations, the mail,
and the same mother tongue
that taught me to wail.
The Merciful One has laid across his shoulders
His weakest lamb.


Adélia Prado

Ex-Voto
Tupelo Press


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