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Can we say serendipity, boys and girls? First, yesterday morning I opened up an article that my friend Theadora Davitt-Cornyn posted on Facebook. The Real Face of Jesus came from Popular Mechanics, of all places, a magazine I have not looked at since high school when it was a geek’s dream of gadgets and pop science.
The article recounted the efforts to discover what the itinerant Jewish preacher looked like using the tools of forensic facial reconstruction and ethnographic studies. Interesting stuff. And lest you doubt the seriousness of the work, I recall a special on History Channel last year drawing on the same research. And would you doubt the History Channel? What are you, a Commie?
After reading that, I scrolled down my Facebook news page and found a new posting from an even older friend, Skip Williamson. That's it in all of its glory above. Skip is the legendary underground cartoonist who I knew from my days on the old Chicago Seed when I wrote under the moniker Wobbly Murf. Skip gave the world the immortal Snappy Sammy Smoot, which would be enough of a contribution to Western Civilization for anyone. But his work includes many other pieces in all sorts of media. Check out his stuff on a variety of nifty consumer products at Skip Williamson Art and buy something while you’re there. The guy’s gotta eat. Or order his memoirs of his depraved life in the adult magazine racket in Flesh: From Hustler to Playboy on Kindle from Amazon. End of plug.
So the universe is obviously vibrating on a theme here.
It turns out that I have meditated on these things before, in the poem Come to Me Sweet Jesus from my 2004 poetry collection, We Build Temples in the Heart, Skinner House Books, Boston, which, by the way is available from the author, personally inscribed for a mere $8.00.
Most astonishingly, those British researchers came to a conclusion pretty close to mine. I must be smarter than anyone suspected.
Come to Me Sweet Jesus
“Come to me, Sweet Jesus!”
The TV preacher shouts,
thumping his chest,
waving his arms
with the urgency and passion
of a man whose toes
have tapped on brimstone.
Which Jesus, I wonder casually,
My thumb hovering over the remote
eager to find the ballgame.
The Jesus on my childhood wall
Wore long blonde hair
tumbling shining to his shoulders
like a Breck ad, gentle blue eyes,
aquiline nose, a Nordic Jesus
come to life in Jeffrey Hunter
waiting the piercing stab
of John Wayne’s Centurion lance.
I have since seen a Jesus
of every imaginable sort—
African Jesus dashikied in splendor,
beardless Blackfoot Jesus in eagle feathers,
Jesus with breasts and womb,
American Guy Jesus,
neat trimmed beard and curling hair
like the Little League coach down the block.
What Jesus does this sweating man summon
with his electronic worship music band
and cathedral in the parking lot,
pews filled with rapture
in sports shirts and sundresses?
And who, when I shut my eyes,
do I beckon when I murmur,
“Come to me sweet Jesus?”
A swarthy man,
stocky built, barrel chested,
muscular forearms bulging
from the swing of the hammer
matted with a thick curling pelt,
nose large, lips fleshy,
burnoose over raven hair,
wrapped in dingy course cloth,
callused bare feet
black with the dust of the road.
I see a man.
Come to me, sweet Jesus,
Let me wash your feet.