When the companions of Jesus saw what was going to happen, they said, “Lord, shall we use the sword?” One of them went so far as to strike the high priest’s servant and cut off his right ear. Jesus said in answer to their question, “Enough!” Then he touched the ear and healed the man.

— Luke 22: 49–51


When the disciple who loved Him most
unsheathed his sword

and sliced off the right ear
                             of the high priest’s servant,

we all cheered and stomped the parquet floor
in that February classroom

where the steam pipes pounded hard
to fight the below
                            zero air seeping past
the wall of cracked windows,

and the purple crosses we’d drawn,
cut and pasted that Lenten morning
                            threw shadows over our desks

as Sister shushed us with a wave of her pointer
and pushed ahead to Jesus
                                                spending the last coin
from his tattered purse of miracles,

then ordered our shameful heads down
on our desks
                            after we hissed the return
of the sword to the scabbard,

all that surrender grinding again at my gut years later

while I’m mudding-in cabbages in my garden,
                             maddened by a week of rain,
the news out of Kabul
then Washington, the stench of decay
from another long winter,

until I picture that bloodied ear on the ground —

the pale lobe mushrooming through the twigs
                                                 and bits of leaves,

a fly stuck fast
to the black clot, struggling —

before He breathed on it,

passed His hand over the wound,
                            and gave Himself up.