Mennonite Poetry Home | Robert Martens



March 26, 2011

dirk willems, anabaptist, has broken
prison - has he broken faith? - and the damned
catholics are in hot pursuit across a frozen pond.
the jailkeeper's on his heels. too fat. the
jailkeeper falls through the ice, and dirk, ana-
baptist dirk, fails to think through the
consequences. he stops, turns, rescues the jailkeeper.
dirk's a natural born martyr, he'll burn
at the stake, his flesh torn by searing tongs,
and maybe he'll sing praises through it all.
hit me again. but his guardian angel, who's
never studied theology, doesn't know reformer
from old school cleric, is embarrassed. he's
failed his charge. what will the big boss say?

i confess. i'm a modern
pretender. but sometimes i think
my anabaptist forebears
were fools. i'd confess
anything, kiss the robe
of father inquisitor,
i'm not fond
of pyres, or searing tongs,
or drowning in a sack. just
let me go home to my
wife and kids and
fresh bread
smeared with hog fat.

which is precisely what
my mennonite forebears did.
didn't need the
damned catholic tonguescrews
to shut them up. ditched
the name of anabaptist,
changed into neat black outfits,
retreated to
damp farmland where flames
weren't a threat. called themselves
mennonite. or, sometimes,
the quiet in the land.
proud to be victims,
bearded, shawled. and when things
got too quiet - who needs
those catholic tormentors anyway? -
began kicking each other
around. hit me again.
pain can be so ennobling.
sometimes i think
my mennonite forebears were fools.

he's raging carefully behind the pulpit.
congolese, and millions dead
in the last decade. quiet.
angry. mennonite pastor, anabaptist
preacher. some
westerners in the crowd take offense.
i take photos.

recently i've been victim to unprovoked malice.
secretly proud of it. i've done nothing wrong,
father confessor, hit me again.

seriously, i have the greatest
respect. i'm a
modern pretender, an internet
fool. the whole damned world
lit a match
under their feet, and they
coped. built dykes
to prevent further drowning. but
sometimes i need to
step outside the colony,
be free to go. maybe
the whole world is
mennonite. victims.
i wouldn't feel so alone.

dirk willems arrives at heaven's gate,
his redfaced guardian angel at his side. dirk
is singed and torn from his encounter with
pyre and tongs in the town square. saint peter
sighs deeply, "kids," he mutters, "what can you do?"
he hands dirk a towel and bandages, "go
clean yourself up," he says, "make yourself
presentable. six sharp. fresh bread and hog fat."

© Robert Martens




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