A man swings through the open doors on crutches,
his long arms thick with muscle like the Christ
whose marble shoulders shouldering the cross
are sculpted mighty as Odysseus’s.
Before he crosses forehead, heart and chest,
the cripple leans one crutch against the wall
and dips his free hand in the carved stone well
of holy water. Hoping to be blessed,
he gazes at the painted ceiling, stays
a moment, hands crossed on a crutch, tame head
bowed. From the altar’s speakers angels sing
while on one leg like a black stork, he prays,
his other pant leg pinned. If he’s not dead,
God listens and as is his way does nothing.
“The Golem of Los Angeles” (Red Hen Press, 2008)
Tony Barnstone is the Albert Upton Professor of English at Whittier College, the author of 13 books, and the writer/producer of a CD of original music based on his book of World War II poems, “Tongue of War.” Among his awards are the Pushcart Prize in Poetry, a fellowship from the California Arts Council, the Poets Prize, and a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts.