Herod watched on as they rebuilt the temple,
such as it was, a diminished thing, built
on a pattern little understood; so far removed
as it was from Solomon’s prefecture;
this vacant court where emptiness prevailed.
He’d studied these black-crested priests,
their endless prayers to the faceless God;
a cause of wonder and laughter to his Greek kindred,
who all surmised it to be a derisive patronymic larceny.
Then some startup toppled the changers stalls,
made havoc among the sacrifices, animal blood
running amock in the common soil like some dogs body.
No this would not happen in his kingdom. Such things.
So when they brought him forward that day he strangely wondered,
what man is this that can so disturb the tribes,
cause such bitter diatribes in priestly wit to absolute indifference?
He seemed a mere peasant, nothing to charm a people;
so why did so many follow this beggar from the lesser realms?
He questioned him, could see no wrong; yet, his strength
in weakness begged the question of his secret power
of conversion, this disquieting truth of a beggared love?
All he could do is have him whipped, sent away, told
to keep his mouth shut against such ways as his, the truth
he squandered so readily among the low and helpless.
Yet, his haughtiness betrayed him. Saying
he could tear down the temple, raise it in three days;
such overreaching pride, such vanity;
exactly who did he think he was, anyway,
this son of Yahweh? O come now,
such things were ludicrous, one knew it was imaginative;
such things as gods were but the tools of Kings, governing,
bringing sway over the unlearned, the dark minded believers.
Even he, Herod, an unbeliever would not kill such innocence,
he washed his hands of it; only that Baptist, the one his daughter
encased on the silver platter, Herodias; even she stained him,
made him feel ill at ease among such ghostly favors, a silent anguish.
So in the end he let them have their way with him, this vagrant rabbi;
let them take him, humiliate him, bring him to the place of skulls.
What did it matter to him? This man, blameless or truant? Guilty, of what?
Yet, the memory of the man’s eyes: undeceiving, clear, strangely lit
as if he knew what was coming; as if he’d foreseen it all, providentially.
It was this alone that forced his hand, forced him to slay the man.
All that mattered was the rule of law, his law; a world ruthless and brutal.
– Steven Craig Hickman ©2015 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited.