The baker, said Luther, glorifies God in bread.
He was a fat fellow, knew good beer from a bad sermon.
Enough of these piglets in neckcloths
sweating through bare words never meant
to be dragged up from belly to lips.
Inside every man I want, I want
cries like a baby, but ashamed
of bread sopped in milk,
choleric to grab his father’s knife.
The helmsman glorifies God by seeing sharks.
The constipated scholar can afford to toss his ink
at demons in the frost,
his own chamber glass cracking.
But bluff sailors, their red hands freezing to the wheel,
need gloves, not Latin.
Bless the tanner and his scrawny boy
who sleeps in the horse-hay,
wakes to crack the trough’s icy skin
and offer the first bite
of an ordinary apple to the steaming mare.
Let him be too young to dream of whores
like Reason, Luther’s false bride.
She is all painted with vocations
of monk and knight and merchant,
pale halo, priapic spear,
the great ships laden with lemons.
The leper glorifies God by losing
his fingers. Luther counted beads
but could not count his dreams
where his shadow-self barreled through Cockaigne,
poor paradise without bakers
where sugar drops from trees and women
are all thighs and stopped mouths.
The beggar glorifies God by opening his hand
to the butcher and the nailsmith, the fool
by singing his cradle song over stones and pennies
flung round him like stars in the dirt.
This poem won third prize in the 2008 Utmost Christian Writers poetry contest.