Cold comfort

The way Herod liked to listen to John the Baptist,
summoning him from his cell for private chats
but could make no sense of what he said; the way
Festus kept the apostle Paul locked up for two years
because he enjoyed hearing him talk, although his words
made him afraid; the way the German guards, terrified
by night bombings, sought out Pastor Bonhoeffer,
even though he was, by his own account, a provider
of cold comfort, writing to a friend, “I can listen all right,
but hardly ever find anything to say. Yet perhaps the way
one asks about some things and is silent about others
helps suggest what really matters”—did not stop
the sharp rap on the prison door or the words “get ready
to come with us” as if for one more quiet conversation
about what really matters.