Now in the whiskered mirror of manhood
I recall how the same hymn always played out
into the pews, how the sweating preacher
summoned the frightened boy in me
to come forth, be saved, be reborn
into the long, loving arms of Jesus.
Too young to run, too old to hide,
bound to the inquisition,
my congregation sang be one of it,
though I never fit into the halo
they tightened on my head.
The pressure burned my brow
like a spotlight of thorns, and I sang off key
like a bitten bird in the cat’s mouth.
So in the land where good
boys clean their plates,
pledge allegiance, go to war
for any reason given,
I stepped in sweat and tears to the altar,
was wrapped in hugs of salvation,
gave witness, testimony as I’d heard say
so many saved souls before me, amen,
about the peace and love I felt, amen,
about my 12-year-old sins, amen,
and how now I’d walk in his light forever, amen . . .
And today in broad daylight I killed a man
who looked like Jesus.
—Robert S. King. First published in Blue Lake Review