The Gospel of Judas

by William Nesbitt

How many times did I come for you
when you were in the back aisle of your father's church,
light confessing itself,
a sermon burning into the wing and harp of your ear?
 
And then we went outside to preach a street gospel of smoke, asphalt, and bloody knuckles.
 
How I saw you in the hospital,
brought you cigarettes,
and we made water balloons from plastic gloves and threw them out the windows at
ambulances, white as doves.
 
I saw you twice after your wedding that I did not attend—your brother filling in for me as best man. Something broke like a communion wafer.
 
Last time I saw you at Walmart with your wife, Patty,
growing older, gaining weight and losing muscle.
 
O King of Kings, O Southern Samson where was the might and vigor of earlier days?
Genius shoulders and the taut heft, the push of strong, winged heels?
The brilliant blood and miracle of muscle?
Youth heart and matchless ichor?
 
A few months ago, I was in the great Old City having a lunch of Greek chicken and rice pudding with my mother at the Plaza.  I had an overwhelming need to go to your house.  I knew you wouldn't be there, but Steve, your father, would.  A confession is worth only, but all of, the weight of itself.
 
I played it out in my mind.  I ask him to tell you I am sorry.  He says he will.  I cry somewhere in here.  He says it is okay, puts his hand on me. 
 
(Heaven and haven't.  How close the letters are, like close and lose, belief and lie.)
 
So we went to your house.  The church beside it had another pastor's name on it.  I knocked on the door.  No one answered.  The only thing I could hear was the sound of my own hand moving (fluttering) like the ghost of unanswered prayers through open spaces of long empty rooms. 
 
-Last night's dream epilogue;
 
And now I can see you only in the heaven of my dreams.  My mother has the house back and you ride.  You ride up in the front yard ready to baptize me in some young adventure on fast streets that last forever and make me immortal. 
 
The sun.  the sun.
    

William Nesbitt is Professor of English at Beacon College. He has published work in Beatdom, Route 7 Review, Popular Culture Review, Kudzu House Quarterly, and Angry Old Man among others.