I had all the qualifications: the prerogatives of the firstborn, the stature of a man of authority, a Goliath, an aquiline nose, an Octavian head, a heart flaming with anger, Saul’s good looks and regal gait. I had splendor and grace. I prayed loudly, devoutly. I came from good roots and was born in the right place. Who could be holier from Bethlehem?
How could my kid brother be anointed, the one with rosacea, looks like carpenter’s shavings, the smell of sheep dung on his hands, who roamed the fields looking for a lost lamb. He wasn’t even invited to the sacrificial banquet.
That old stickler Samuel knew I should be king. I coveted the horn that was strapped over his shoulders leaning toward me. Why wasn’t that good enough for God? My name alone should have given me the edge in the kingdom.
At the end of time everything trembles and topples— the sun dresses in sackcloth, plagues run amok, vaccines sour; threadbare bones like oakum unravel and children frieze into sandstone; patriots fall like falling stars, and the tower of winds decays in stillness; a flood of faces bloats the river and suicides surface like bubbling sores. Then holy men and women scatter sainted salts to ward off fiends trying to steal family voices pleading for sanctuary; none left but a remnant of martyrs to scribble with blood and sickles in bitter books about the end of time until the kingdom of eternity reigns salving the wounds of memory.
The first resplendent and holy, flourishing over waters, trees with fulsome fruit, witherless leaves, psaltery furrowing the land, a covenant of light and mist; no want; creation swelling, begetting in the shadow of white-clifted wings.
In the second, sin sprouted rocks and spurs; acorns detonate like grenades; mandrakes scream bloodroots and tribulation; serpents untangle from dead boughs, sunlight shriveled up everywhere.
The third the garden within tending memories of rockroses, fallen pomegranates and sallow sunsets; olive trees weeping in the wilderness blood-seared thorns and stargazer lilies pressed into a crown; God calling us back to paradise.