Prepare the Way – a poem by Rachel Mallalieu

Prepare the Way

No, I’m not afraid
I’ve been expecting this
since the day I pointed my finger and
spit brood of vipers into the desiccated air
They’re lavish with their silk raiments
and unworked hands
They’re why I flagellate 
with camel hair and rope a leather belt
against my need
This is the costume Elijah wore—
his eyes sparking 
above a fearsome beard
People require their prophets to 
eat locusts and scoop handfuls of 
honey with dirty fingernails

They came when I cried to them
from the edge of a sand filled sea
Followed me right to the Jordan River,
I stood thigh deep, 
my legs gleaming like the fish 
who caressed my feet
I baptized them to purity,
the way my mother taught me 
when she said it was time and
reminded me of the way I’d leapt 
within her womb 
when He came near
She smoothed my spine and
strained my ears toward heaven—
so certain was she that I would 
discern the whispers
What could I do but shout my truth?
The city blazed with wickedness and 
writhed with sin on scented sheets

So here I am—
slumped against a wall
beneath Herod’s palace
The guards laugh to 
feed me meat and milk
and poke their fingers into the softening
glut of my flesh
There was a moment when 
fear devoured my faith and I
sent Him a letter, asked
if He was the One

And He answered—told me
The blind are regaining sight,
The lame are walking

They’ve unchained my hands and 
lead me to the banquet hall 
where Salome sways a hypnosis
I should look away, 
but the solidity of my stench
cleaves clouds of incense 
and I hold her childish gaze
She hoists a platter 
that winks with rubies and
then I’m on my knees
Metal bites my neck

The dead are being raised 

He’d said
The dead are being raised

Rachel Mallalieu is an emergency physician and mother of five. She is the author of A History of Resurrection (Alien Buddha Press 2022). Some of her recent work is featured or forthcoming in Nelle, A Gathering of the Tribes, Dialogist, Rattle and elsewhere. More of her poetry can be found at

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s