“Simon” (by Marilyn K. Levine)
I was a proper friend,
having said so myself,
a loyal bearer of the burden,
one who understood
and needed only time
to witness to my honor.
I swore allegiance,
even when I got in over my head
more than once
and needed prompt rescue.
It was all right, I thought,
to go half the distance,
especially when so much good
could come to me
for that meager sacrifice of time
and a little sweet talk.
The miracles were a fascinating
icing on the cake,
a kind of glue to which I stuck.
There would be hard times, but
in a little while, not now.
Small warnings in daytime
are seldom sufficient
for the headstrong in the dark,
so present-bound are they
and hobbled by current events.
In Gethsemane, the night pealed
while I slept
and dreamed of several more miracles
and a little fever of salvation
handed out with the bread and wine.
When the roosts were still,
they came and took my friend away
to chains and other ignominies.
And I shrank within myself
and knew I had no backbone for
How sad, I moaned around the fire:
but still, I never knew that man.
And cockatrice shrilled
across the dark for the first time.
Repenting, I took the burden up
and meant to carry it all the way
but at the water’s edge,
I paused and lost my center:
Him? (If this is how it is)
Him I never knew.
Still face to face I came,
dragged unwilling by those
who knew my profession
to show cause for my own pardon.
Face to face I had no choice,
with eyes as distant as the sea
and body crouched profanely,
in beggarly ways with oblique gestures,
I admitted what was obviously true:
You, I said,
I never knew you.
Ah, then cockatrice bellowed
while the earth changed underfoot.
My chest froze beneath this cloak
as I slinked away
to bide my time in random thoughts
of yesterday and broken promises.
I was a proper friend, I was:
true to myself
and false to the core.
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