John the Baptist

Simeon Lewis

After him, the rain.

The desert thirst, countless sands
Unfolding a vast dazzling waste,
Ripples of wind etched
Like lines of the snake
On pyramid mountains sinking
In golden sun.
A naked beaten tree alive—
Roots to an unseen spring.

The man clothed in corpse-skin,
Bones of holy wandering bleached
By burning sky,
By purest instinct, in lifeless infinity
Moving—eyes beyond the sun.
Out of his spirit, the holy flesh seizing
The dryness, the final desolation
Of a flaccid cry, lost in the howls of wind
To burst like a desert flower
And echo across the dull plain, the savage wilderness
Returning with his life
To announce the day.

Advance, advance, with your sweet fruit,
Your intimate age, your claim.
Go down to the river, children, and play
    (leap in the swollen womb)
For the hour of the living water
Is in your song.

In the waters of the river
The path was made.
Cup overflowing...
Current, wash the stones to sand
On the banks by the city:
Abraham, you are not alone.
Footprints glisten around the tree,
    dry quickly in the sun.

In the waters of the river
The path was made.
Ligaments to muscles, turning bones
With the arc of the sky.
Water catching sparks, following the course
Of skin to the flow...
Beneath the tree, the roots are on fire.

Flood the streets of the city, river!
Flood-rush the walls,
Stream the stairs,
Fill basements, barns,
Cool whited irons,
Sink the temple, fluid ink.
The branches have gone to seed—
The roots expose their thirst.

All things are on fire.
Burning, burning
The voice from the waste
Crying fire...
After him, the sky
Ripped open—
Blood and water,
Sweet triumphant wine
Flashing the land inebriate,
    the promised flood.

After him, the thunder spoke.
After him, the rain.

Simeon Lewis is a graduate of the University of Vermont.