Word Poetry




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Sample Poems by Cara Chamberlain

And the Tempter Came

Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And he fasted forty days and forty nights . . .
—Matthew 4:1-2

Fallen on hard times, Satan performed as needed. Under the sway of fate, he was free only in style.

Where boulders resemble loaves, it seemed a simple trick in the wilderness, not much to ask someone on a forty-day fast. But “Man shall not live by bread alone,” Satan thrilled to hear as he knew he would.

They climbed holy streets, a scrambled canyon of rooms built on beating rock. With studied poise, Satan led. “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down,” he crooned, barely able to contain the gentle nudge, the skillful tap, as everyone smiled at the futility.

Satan wrapped Jesus and flew to glaciered peaks. There on the ice, he offered up the earth. Vicuņas, goldmines, Los Angeles, Kyiv: “All these I will give
you, if you will fall down and worship me.” A glossy wing sparkled. Every line he delivered with conviction, even bravado.


. . . and he will separate them one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will place the sheep at his right hand, but the goats at the left.
—Matthew 25:32-34

No, he won’t be outcast.
Or if he must, he’ll be defiant,
whiskers and long ears ringed with vapor,
breath damp green with ripening hay.

He shakes his head.
Who needs the sheep?

All around, deer bend and browse.
He likes their ways, their grace.

Enormous Unhuman Beauty
And all the army of the Chaldeans, who were with the captain of the guard, broke down the walls around Jerusalem. And the rest of the people who were left in the city and the deserters who had deserted to the king of Babylon, together with the rest of the multitude, Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard carried into exile. But the captain of the guard left some of the poorest of the land to be vinedressers and plowmen.
—2 Kings 25:10-12

Without let-up, wind lifts
what used to be plowed fields.
In red whips of soil, the old wealth snaps.
Chicory, mustard, and wild rosemary
riot edges of vanishing farms.
So few of us are left we gather
all we eat. Soon we’re like birds,
pecking seedheads by the Jackal’s Well.
Palms invade, dates dripping like syrup.
After palms, mulberry and bay.

Thunderheads boil up, and, in those mills,
seventy towering years of Sabbaths
grind us. Just one butter-knife
lightning cuts the idols down, even
our invisible One.


For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places, there will be famines; this is but the beginning of the sufferings.
—Mark 13:8

It was over instantly—a gospel of action, Jesus rushing to trial: “The Spirit immediately drove him” to the desert (a quick forty days of sand and wrens spilling through outcrops).

“And immediately they left their nets,” every disciple proving precipitate as Andrew and Peter.

“Immediately, they went into Capernaum,” the unclean spirit “immediately” popping up in the synagogue.

Blind men, demented, lepers, victims of hemorrhage, and paralytics overrunning Galilee—a populace lurched and withered in the sprint to catch Jesus: “Immediately he spoke to them.”

Sprung from agrarian cycles and the round of festival, harvest, atonement—time tumbles unkempt when the narrative stops. “For they were afraid,” Mark concludes at the empty tomb,

leaving us to the days that do drag on: the new nonrhythm of doves bickering, of midnight heat, of centuries of wars and floods, of night primrose glowing obscenely, stubbornly unripe.

No wonder Matthew, John, and Luke slow the pace, add a buffer of epilogues.