Jesus at the Sea of Galilee, 2020

By Marianna Boncek

The Sea of Galilee is full, but the beaches are empty.” ~ABC News 5/2/2020

Sorry, Jesus,

no multitudes to feed

but you can walk on the water

all you want

uninterrupted.

Not too many to

see your miracles

but maybe you could fix

something that needed

mending for a change,

like a chair

or that squeaky hinge

on the front door.

Your mother’s been asking

for the bathroom

to be remodeled for years

but was patient

because of your flock.

They’re quarantined now.

Do something useful.

Make her happy.

 

Look, you and I go way back.

I know you bring them in with the miracles,

the sleight of hand,

the party tricks,

but the problem is, Jesus,

they never go farther than that.

They think you will abracadabra

the virus to oblivion or hell.

They won’t wear their masks

and can’t give up the bowling league

or the beauty parlor

thinking you’ll be around to fix things

when they fuck it up, big time.

You probably should have stressed

personal responsibility,

cooperation,

and unconditional love

a little more than you did.

But I get it.

Who doesn’t like a free meal

on a hill by the seaside?

The problem is

when you started the sales pitch

they all suddenly had somewhere

else to be.

 

 

One hundred and two years later

He’s just a boy,

1918,

posing for the picture,

tow head,

impish smile,

leaning with his elbow

on his brother’s shoulder.

The lake in the background,

he’s wearing an ill-fitting

one-piece bathing suit

probably a hand me down from his brother.

That summer in the Catskills,

the Jewish Alps,

he ate roasted chicken

juice dripping down his chin,

matzah,

latkes with gobs of sour cream

and never grew fat.

Instead,

his mother said,

he grew a foot

but not really

just lean and brown

from all that time

in the sun.

 

I am standing now,

one hundred and two years later,

in the same spot

where the picture was taken,

the lake in front of me,

wearing a surgical mask

my daughter ran up on her second-hand sewing machine.

Born with “bad lungs” she

hasn’t left her apartment in weeks.

A man comes into view

walking his dog

he waves at me

and moves off in another direction.

 

The boy’s grave is not far from here.

He died that Fall

in his mother’s Brooklyn boarding house.

The plague she had sent him away to avoid

got him in the end anyway.

How she got him from that tenement in Brooklyn

to the sunny field in the Catskills,

I have no idea

but I know why.

 

This plague?

We have better science

and healthcare now

but it appears

we are no smarter.

 

I won’t visit the boy’s grave

not today,

not now,

like him

I just want a little more sun.

 

 Marianna Boncek is an educator and writer who lives in the Hudson Valley. Her poems and short stories have been published in a variety of magazines and literary journals. She is a regular reader in Hudson Valley poetry venues. 

Trolley c/o NYS Writers Institute

Science Library 320

University at Albany

Albany NY 12222   

nyswritersinstitute.org 

© 2020 All rights reserved.​

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