Underground Jesus

What if Jesus had sprung from the ground like a sapling,
and when he left burrowed back into the earth, returning
to a heaven marked by glorious stalagmites?

Instead of all this rising up, this disappearing
into clouds and blinding light, we’d have saints with shovels,
avatars in diamond mines, bodhisattvas with arms
wrapped happily around the dark roots of trees.

Did volcanoes convince us to put hell below the ground,
seething fire, belching smoke, smelling of scorched earth,
while we worshipped the sun—which burns as readily as
it nurtures? Earth holds more than fire, dispenses life
as freely as the sun. It, too, giveth and taketh away. And, yet,
the sky we call “the heavens” while we abuse the earth.
We launch into the blue our saints, our hopes, our probes,
know more about the depths of space than our own planet’s core.

Perhaps when he returns to judge the living and the dead,
Christ will eschew fiery cloud, burning hail, and come as Jesus,
the man, rising black and angry from an oil-soaked lake.

—Lawrence Kessenich, Boston, MA