On being asked if I share the gospel with my students
I know I’m not getting any of this guy’s money.
Because this is the missionary equation —
I with my presentation and my worn out
shoes, a life honed to a single point.
He with the presumption that he’s sending me,
like a spy or a timebomb, into the forsaken
darkness, like a single ember bright-lit
in a censer swung across the map.
His is a gospel of nets. Of capture. His is the gospel
that asks, If you died tonight, do you know for sure
you’d go to heaven? A gospel of the escape
route, the secret doorway, the cheat.
I can speak his language like a native, but can’t
quite find a way to tell him, I am no ember.
That mine is a gospel of tanks
rusting in the snow, a gospel of grass
growing over the place they massacred
their neighbors. A gospel of guard shacks peeling
off their paint. A gospel of old songs being sung
in the tavern, of year by year clear water filling up
the empty missile silo, of new bricks
making straight the rough streets.