Men Like Trees


For Jesus Christ, the Risen.

The first time a splinter bit my flesh I was 13 years old.
My hands were not yet fully grown
to master the rage of tools
against the bare back of the cut down tree.

When that splinter hit my palm,
right at the intersection of eternity and purpose
my heart reverberated with the echo
of something strangely familiar.

I stared at the ruby spot of blood in my hand
growing into a slithering river
as my stepfather, the graceful mountain of a tender man
tried to pull it out of my hand
saying, there, there, child,
one day, your hands will grow to their purpose
they will learn to embrace the pain
each time something you are trying
to shape into beautiful
decides to be stubborn and fight you back.

By the time I was 23,
my hands had already grown strong enough
to carry the weight of my whole body;
the tools, more like extensions of my extremities,
moved gracefully to purpose from morning to sundown,
as my stepfather’s wisdom had already run its simple course.
Each day, working in the shop,
carving things into useful,
I felt in the way the saw met with resistance
as it caressed the spine of the naked tree
that the wood was keeping score,
and one day it would come back for me,
with vengeance.

The sting of sweat rolling down my back
would make shiver the man in me
but my heavenly Father would whisper in the backyard trees
there, there, Son,
remember why you chose to wear their skin
how much in love you are with all of this, and them;
how the barrenness in their bleak branches
and the blood thirst of their dry bones
beckoned you down from our heavenly home.

You said it was worth it,
no matter how often they’d slap away your hand.

Days shy of my 33d birthday,
on a scorching afternoon in a wretched street
in Bethsaida, I cooked mud with spit and dust
to restore sight to a blind man.
When he received my gift,
moved with gratitude, he pointed
behind my back, in warning:
I see man as trees, walking.

How those words echoed in my skull that night in the Garden
my friends, slumbering like tired children,
the bite of the kiss still fresh on my cheek
at the intersection of betrayal and surrender,
the river of sweat and blood on my forehead
stinging like a bed of bees and pine needles;
I saw you coming out of the trees,
wearing so many familiar faces,
like beavers with mean sharp teeth,
a forest of hands stretching out angry branches,
armed with swords and crowbars tongues,
and though you moved with the tornado’s fury,
the beauty in the design was still worth dying for.
So take me,
here I am.
No man can take my life from me
I lay it down of my own willful heart.
See my hands, resolved to their purpose.
I am the man-God
In love with you beyond all reason.
Grind my skin with the teeth of your sin.
Let the anger of the cross saw through me
inch by inch of its rough embrace
until our spines meet in the bloody kiss
of righteousness and peace.
I offer no resistance.
I offer myself.
Let me take upon me your tools of rage.
Let me make something of you worth being.
Let me take you back home.
All I want is for you to love me
like you did when we were in Eden.

How your eyes lit up the day I unclenched my fist,
and showed you right in the center of my palm,
at the intersection of eternity and us,
the first tree seed, full of promise.

Remember how I hid it in the earth, like my body,
how it burst it open with new life.

Remember my body;
the empty tomb is my promise:
death will no longer hunt your bones.

I am the resurrection and the life,
the Author of all things beautiful,
the Lover of all things mine.

Do not mourn me like I did not intend this.
Do not shun me like I am not enough.
Take me as I am,
I will take you back to our home.

These days, I am once again in my Father’s shop,
carving the beauty of worlds to come.
Wait till you see what I’ve been making;
I have built you a house of forever windows.
My love is the porch light, always on.
There’s a garden of trees with clapping hands
their spines dance to the will of my hand
they sing our song:
Holy, holy, holy is the Lamb, who was slain,
the Rose of Sharon, the Bridegroom, the I Am,
the Lover, the Carpenter, the Darling of heaven.
His heart is set on his beloved, forever.

My beloved,
Do not miss me like I am not returning.
when the trumpet sounds in spring,
and the fig tree give forth its blossoms,
I am coming to take you,
Our home awaits us.


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