What are you working on right now?
I am working on a book called NEW GOD PARTY ANTHEMS and these words are a part of that. I won't describe the contents of the book because I'm longing for a day when all books contain a uniform meaninglessness and exact likeness of symbols so that, at last, it will be appropriate to judge a book by its goddamned cover, thank you for asking.
The disciples have become tired of parables. They want their stories to mean nothing. Jesus says, "I know what you mean," so he turns water to wine so he and his disciples can "just have some wine. We could all use some wine right about now." The disciples are tired of miracle wine. They want real wine, the kind that has to sit in a jar for awhile and ferment, the kind made with grapes, maybe not even cleaned before they were crushed, the kind where you can feel little bits of sand when you swish it around in your mouth. They miss the challenge of fishing without Jesus casting out his wide net and walking across the water to draw it gently back to the boat, the net frothing with caught fish. They say, "Jesus, no more stories tonight. We're tired of healed lepers and virgin whores. If anything, tell us about David killing the giant, or something with a pack of lions. No one tells stories like that anymore." Jesus bends over and picks up a handful of dirt. He says, “What do you guys know about it?” In the distance a bush ignites. “Look guys, he set another bush on fire. Let’s worship him,” sneers one of the disciples. “And look up at the sky, he’s making the stars come out in the middle of the day. Big whoop.” Jesus says, “I didn’t do that. The sky, I mean. The burning bush was totally me, but—” “Well, we’re not impressed. Catching that bush on fire would be easy for anyone with just a tad of the lord’s spirit in them. It hasn’t rained here in months.” One of the weary disciples begins to rub the sandal wounds on his feet, “Heal the lepers, will you.” A pack of desert lions descend upon Jesus and his men. They appear hungry and strong. Jesus walks out to meet them. He puts his hand upon the first lion’s head and it rolls over to show its belly, which Jesus rubs. The other lions follow the lead lion’s example, looking at the disciples as if they expect belly rubs. The disciples ignore the lions. “I’m not wasting my time petting no damn lion. Have you seen what my sandals have done to my feet?” One of the lions crumbles into a pile of new sandals. The man begrudgingly picks up a left sandal and a right sandal, and he puts them on his feet. “Thanks a lot, Jesus,” he moans. Jesus conjures a tiny rainstorm to extinguish the burning bush. The lions stand up and walk on into the desert, visible for the next half-hour before disappearing naturally over a beige horizon. They spend the next few hours in silence, snacking on crackers after rejecting rocks that Jesus had made into bread and a pile of camel droppings that Jesus made into a blueberry pie. The men are sleeping now. They are all dreaming about their lives before they met Jesus. They were hard-working men of all trades. Some of them even had drinking problems. Some of them still do. They dream of maybe their wives and kids. Jesus is able to move from one disciple’s head to the next, comforting them, believing that their uppity-ness is due only to exhaustion. One of the disciples moans in his sleep, mutters, “Gi-ou-a-m’hea-Jesus.” The stars that came out in the day remain out in this night. Jesus does not look at them. He stares into the dirt, willing the dirt to speak to him, and of course, it does. “What’s going on Jesus?” Jesus does not respond to the dirt mouth, wiping it away with his sandal that used to be part of a lion. Jesus stands up and walks over to the pile of extra sandals, which is much smaller than it was several hours ago. Some of the disciples have hung sandals from their robes to bring them back to town and sell them. One of the disciples sleeps atop the pile of sandals, a position which he had to fight off another disciple to earn. Jesus imagines himself shoving the disciple off the sandal pile, of bringing the lions back and summoning a giant to snap the bones of his disciples, of scorching the entire desert from here to all-surrounding horizon, of making the disciples sandals turn to thorns. He imagines all of this, confident that if he really wanted to, he could do it, he could make it all happen. The stars above him have dimmed. Jesus wonders about his mother back home in Nazareth, about how stupid he was to leave home, how humanity will be fine without him, how his feet are so sore from wearing sandals, that even the sandals he makes from lions leave red ruts in his feet, how if he just walked away tonight no one would ever know what happened to him. He could erase himself from the disciples’ memories. He could keep them asleep long enough that they will not wake until he has put so much distance between himself and his former disciples that they would never be able to catch up with him even if they did remember. He imagines staring into the sun for so long that his eyes grow scales, wandering blindly into the nothingness of the Judaean desert, to sleep at the foot of a dune, let it cover him completely.
Twelve men awake in a stupor, one on top of a pile of sandals, others discover their robes to be stuffed with sandals. It is morning and the sun has begun its ascent over the ridges in the Judaean distance. The men rise and depart separately, with no words spoken by any of them. The intervals with which they depart reflect a somber unknowing, a haze that must be allowed to clear enough for their minds to decide upon what to do now. The first man rises and departs with his gaze fixed upon the distance, staggering. The second man collects himself slowly, opens his robe and searches for a flask of water, walking in the direction of distance his body faces. Others survey all directions before departing. One man climbs atop the pile of sandals, creating a minor landslide of leather, sways atop the pile, shields his eyes with his curved hand, slowly rotates around to survey. A few men twirl when faced with the task of deciding upon a path. One supplicates and cries briefly and unnoticeably to those who, at the time, remained. One man laughs as if responding to internal stimuli, before shaking his loose head like a globe playing the orbit of an hour in forward and in reverse and then forward once more. None of the men have any semblance of selves left among them. They will wander out into the Judaean Desert, all separately, wordless, and in all directions, none of them able to maintain a straight line as they move outward from the collective point of origin. Some will wander back toward the sandal pile. Some will create loops in the sand. Others will cross paths, noticing the mutual passer, not speaking to the other, as if they each know there is nothing left to speak about. The aerial pattern of footprints left in the desert will resemble a flower designed by chance, a disassembled atom, the paths run by all the individual fighters in a squirt gun fight. When the wind moves it will rasp at the men’s feet, filling the gap between skin and sandal. The burned bush will shed small amounts of ash. Everything reeking of an empty womb. The sky an open palm. One man will wander into a gorge he has never entered and escape his future into a cave. Another man will dehydrate and perish within half a mile of the point of origin, his vulture-tattered rags discovered months later by a thirsty gazelle. One man will fall into an unknowing, his still-living body ushered into town, deemed demon-possessed, and abandoned in the streets, left to eat grass and trash with the asses. A few men will wander into villages in which they will be recognized by acquaintances and word will be sent to their home villages with travellers who intend to pass through the mens’ home villages that “they are here and they are safe but you had better come see.” Loved ones will visit nearby villages and far villages in search of the men who had left all of their lives to follow a belief and who now, they will discover, seem to be anchored against the current of their own lives. The loved ones will do their best to care for the men, providing them with food and a bed, trying to teach them old skills, spark motivation, remind them of who they are, growing spiteful of the blankness in the mens’ eyes, growing old and dying as loved ones do, either before or after the deaths of the men, which will go unnoticed except in the way that it rained somewhere in the world or a sandal rubbed into a heel.
my name is daniel bailey. i just moved to athens, georgia, where i live a life of luxury with my wife and 17 dogs, all named elaine. i have a new book of poetry out from Scrambler Books. it is called Gather Me and it can be purchased here.