John the Baptist
by Louise Gwathmey Weld

A voice cries from the wilderness:
'Do not dismantle yourself into small, manageable compartments
or wrap yourself in learning and habit.
Even the wisdom of the land is fenced in;
people grow flowers in window boxes.
'Do not cling to a sturdy tree
and the safety of rooted virtue
for the voice of the Lord twists oaks
and strips the forests bare.
Fling yourself into the storm
and let it rip you off your crossroads considerations
and take you where you cannot get
by map or marker. If you stumble
refuse the rescue squad
and all who would bandage up your need.
'Go into the desert
hunger and thirst after righteousness;
repent of every attempt you make
to clothe yourself in respectability,
tuck in your shirttales around your raging fear
cotton-mouthed sophistication
muffles your wailing loneliness.
''Let the wind have its way with you.
When you do not know who you are
and can find no cause for hope
are naked and battered beyond recognition
cannot press yourself into any nest or crevice,
cannot hear your own breath; then
you may hear the grating click of the locust
summoning you to the author of your salvation
there to be fed with wild honey
and laid, slippery sweet with birth,
on the stomach of your own soul,
touched and named
by her welcoming caress
as she traces your shape on her heart.'

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