Published on Academy of American Poets (https://poets.org)


If I Were Paul

Consider how you were made.

Consider the loving geometry that sketched your bones, the passionate symmetry that sewed 
flesh to your skeleton, and the cloudy zenith whence your soul descended in shimmering rivulets 
across pure granite to pour as a single braided stream into the skull’s cup.

Consider the first time you conceived of justice, engendered mercy, brought parity into being, 
coaxed liberty like a marten from its den to uncoil its limber spine in a sunny clearing, how you 
understood the inheritance of first principles, the legacy of noble thought, and built a city like a 
forest in the forest, and erected temples like thunderheads.

Consider, as if it were penicillin or the speed of light, the discovery of another’s hands, his oval 
field of vision, her muscular back and hips, his nerve-jarred neck and shoulders, her bleeding 
gums and dry elbows and knees, his baldness and cauterized skin cancers, her lucid and 
forgiving gaze, his healing touch, her mind like a prairie.  Consider the first knowledge of 
otherness.  How it felt.

Consider what you were meant to be in the egg, in your parents' arms, under a sky full of stars.

Now imagine what I have to say when I learn of your enterprising viciousness, the discipline 
with which one of you turns another into a robot or a parasite or a maniac or a body strapped to a 
chair.  Imagine what I have to say. 

Do the impossible.  Restore life to those you have killed, wholeness to those you have maimed, 
goodness to what you have poisoned, trust to those you have betrayed. 

Bless each other with the heart and soul, the hand and eye, the head and foot, the lips, tongue, 
and teeth, the inner ear and the outer ear, the flesh and spirit, the brain and bowels, the blood and 
lymph, the heel and toe, the muscle and bone, the waist and hips, the chest and shoulders, the 
whole body, clothed and naked, young and old, aging and growing up.

I send you this not knowing if you will receive it, or if having received it, you will read it, or if 
having read it, you will know that it contains my blessing.

Credit


From Epistles by Mark Jarman. Copyright © 2008 by Mark Jarman. Reprinted by permission of Sarabande Books. All rights reserved.

Author


Mark Jarman

Poet Mark Jarman won the 1998 Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize and has authored many collections of poetry.

Date Published: 2008-01-01

Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/if-i-were-paul