(for John Boehner)
I wait at the gate as they talk.
Yentas have nothing on scribes and rabbis
Prating endlessly about petty details.
Knotted behind me on the courtyard steps
They pepper the young teacher
With baited queries about coinage and tribute.
Here in Herod’s temple, of all places.
I stay in the gate and I watch
As the Levite carrying pigeons—
Yea, birds I bought with temple coin—
Delivers them to the vested priest.
Their enflamed blood renders me clean.
Do these wranglers of words behind
Not see the cold irony of their banter?
Like blood-soaked priests they wring the heads
From bandied words and scatter their entrails
Missing the point entirely.
I turn from the gate as I mock.
The law telleth me that I am unclean
66 days after birthing mine now-fatherless child.
I must needs bring a lamb to sacrifice,
Which maketh me pure in the eyes of men—
Which maketh me pure in the eyes of men!
But the law alloweth the poor to substitute birds,
Birds I must purchase with temple coin,
Coin birthed only from Roman coin: Tell me,
Is that rendering to God what is God’s?
The temple is taxing in its own rite—
Why do ye scribes wish to avoid Rome’s?
What would ye do with the coin ye save?
Care for widows whose scant Roman coin
Ye are only too eager to change?
Or wouldst thou purchase more offerings
To pay for thine own many splendored sins?
There, I have said too much.
I depart from the gate as they gawk,
Cross ’neath the lampstand’s shade
And approach the Treasury as they natter.
There is so little left that I can do.
I take what remains to me,
Two tiny Roman coins—yea, Roman—
And I drop them into the box.
They chime shrilly as they disappear.
What, now, will the learned do with that?