Jesus Christ
In the South Bronx

First he came back as an earth-mover
And built highway bridges in the desert to the east.
But then he decided it was better
As Buddha had explained to him
To build bridges between men
So he went into the service of humanity
As a clinical social worker (MSW)
In the South Bronx, at Unification House.

"Send me where they most need me,"
He said to the head case worker,
A sad-eyed psychotherapist named Pilot.
So they sent him out to St. Jude's
Just beyond what the neighbors called "Calle de Terrór."
Jesus liked it because the trash and the cracked black falling walls
Reminded him of the brickwork he encountered
On his last tour of duty.

Jesus, eyes sweet chocolate like the roots of hyacinths,
Floated through his appointments, serving humanity
Out of the dark of their days, the television going all hours,
Backdrop shadows against the children sleeping on floors,
Toy bears torn and stained, mothers hovering
Over stoves, men nodding out of love
With the giant bubble of forget-me-all.

One day high up in a well-known shooting gallery
Just off Calvary Street, a junkie named Peter-Paul
Stabbed him in the side with a switch-blade.
He figured Jesus was a nark because
He said that it was better not to hurt people.
When Pete's buddies pushed the man-god out a third-story window
He died (again!) impaled on the black teeth of a cast-iron fence
That surrounded the Four-Square Gospel Church of God.

Jesus barely had time to whisper his forgiveness
Before they laid him in an ambulance
With an orderly named Todd who wondered
Why the body radiated
Such a fearsome light.

--- E. J. Whittier

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