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The men listened, leaning in. “On the highway at Sepphoris,” he said, “The Romans crucified five hundred and twenty men going into town, and five hundred and twenty going out. One thousand and forty, all told, of the children of Israel and the Gentiles alike. I made marks on a stick to keep track.” Joseph looked around the circle at his neighbors. “Each man was crucified with three of these,” he said, and lifted the spike up for all to see. “That would be about three thousand one hundred and twenty wrought-iron spikes.” He waited to see if they understood. “At a penney a dozen,” he said, “Or thereabouts.” He reached out to hand the black iron to the man next to him, but it was Naaman, the rabbi, who threw up his hands and drew back.

“That should not even be in here,” he said thickly. “It is cursed by God and absolutely unclean, as you well know, Joseph.” “Yes, Reb Naaman,” said Joseph, “I understand. And Demetrius of Ptolemais understands that if we are hungry enough we will sell our children. First our daughters, we will sell them to feed our sons. Then our sons. Then our wives, and lastly ourselves, Reb Naaman. The pimp of Ptolemais will gladly keep us alive on those terms.” There was quiet for a few moments, and then Matthias, a man with five children, reached out and took the spike. He turned it over in his hands. “Even a prostitute may give a gift to the temple,” he said. “Isn’t it so, Rabbi?” He handed the spike to his brother Judah. “Can we sell the iron in Ptolemais, Joseph?” Joseph cocked his head, but it was young Ephraim across the circle who broke in, “You can sell anything or anybody in Ptolemais!”

“Well,” said Joseph, “We’ll probably get cheated; but it’s around five hundred pounds of Roman wrought iron. I think we could get enough to make it through until next year.” The men looked around at one another, and heads started nodding in agreement.

“God I’m hungry!” said one of the younger men, “Let’s get started!” More heads nodded, and the meeting started to break up into excited talk.

Joseph spoke up loudly, “Rabbi,” he said, “If we could bury them, and pray for them… maybe God could forgive the pollution?” Everyone looked at Reb Naaman. Looking down at his hands he began to nod, yes, and then looked up around the room and smiled. “Thanks be to God!” he said. The men echoed him around the room, “Thanks be to God!”

“We should work at night,” said Joseph. The men quieted. “And just around sunrise, I think. We don’t want to get caught doing this.”

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So this is an old idea; we've seen it on banners and posters around our churches... well... churches I hang out in. Being surrendered to the will of God is an ideal. If it's only ever aspirational I guess that's ok too. I'd like to think that God is working on me, and I know I will continue to reach out to God. I also recognize that to fill my hands with God I have to let go of other things.

This song is from 16 years back: In January of '05 I found out that my marriage of 27 years was going to end. It's like Stevie says, "...well I've been fraid of changes, since I built my life around you..." Anyway one reason we make art is to try and get a handle on our feelings, because otherwise they get too much for us. I like this one a lot. Not only is it minor blues - yeah! - but it's about as good as I get for lyric writing:

"...go down down to that cradle of light,

Jesus goin' to save you

in His own sweet time..."

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What was not to like? It was such a pretty song, such crisp little blue-grassy turns in the key of G, and it had been such a bad fight. The latest, I'm sorry to say, in a string of bad fights, and it hurt bad also because I was trying to follow Jesus, and so I was also ashamed that I was yelling at a person I loved. All a long time ago, such a long long time ago, and people have moved on, and the children in the middle of the angry parents, those children who perhaps suffered the most are now adults themselves, and if they don't want to talk about it, who's to blame them?

When the image came though of the little brown bird stuck in the tree, I went, "Oh yeah," and then when the joke came out at the end about how we'd get married and "...all our kids get little brown wings..." I thought, "OK, now I can take this to April and Rich and Bill." Sometime in 1998, I think; maybe that night at the Dublin Pub I played through it for them. This song also neatly models something I learned writing poetry back in the late Cretaceous Age: that making art can help manage pain. Jesus, and love do win out in this song, though it is a mixed business and a near thing, much like the rest of my life.

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