Discourse on the Crippled God


A man swings through the open doors on crutches,
his long arms thick with muscle like the Christ
whose marble shoulders shouldering the cross
are sculpted mighty as Odysseus’s.

Before he crosses forehead, heart and chest,
the cripple leans one crutch against the wall
and dips his free hand in the carved stone well
of holy water. Hoping to be blessed,

he gazes at the painted ceiling, stays
a moment, hands crossed on a crutch, tame head
bowed. From the altar’s speakers angels sing
while on one leg like a black stork, he prays,
his other pant leg pinned. If he’s not dead,
God listens and as is his way does nothing.

Tony Barnstone is Professor of English at Whittier College. His books include Sad Jazz: Sonnets; Impure: Poems by Tony Barnstone; and The Anchor Book of Chinese Poetry, among many others.

First published in Measure, Volume 2 (2007)