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POETRY by J. Barrie Shepherd and Jim Kerbaugh


. . . and perfect man, with one last chance to say
How much he’d rather not: “the hour might pass,”
“If it be possible” – and then who knew?
Things might go on as they had always done,
And who’d object? A wife, kids, decent trade,
A quiet, slow approach to sepulcher –
“If thou be willing.” But how to wake them,
With what words say he had reprieved himself,
There’d be no sacrifice of blood and flesh
To match his table talk? To skulk away
Was only human, after all. The flesh
Remembered bread and wine, and wanted rest.
“All things are possible to thee.” No help
By way of answer. So the choice was his,
But soon: a little longer was too late.
What life? Derision, then obscurity,
The dull, gray anticlimax of regret?
The choice was not to choose: “Not as I will,”
And that was that, if he could keep his nerve.
He made his way back to the ones who slept,
Waked them with a touch. “Let us be going.”

Jim Kerbaugh is Professor of English at Illinois College, where he teaches creative writing and medieval literature. He has published short stories and poetry in various journals.



Those tongues that thronged
on Pentecost have never ceased,
have hardly taken time to swallow,
draw one gasping breath since then.
They sound forth in each and every throbbing
wavelength gathered in by human ears even,
probably, by dogs and bats, persuading,
ever persuading one and all to be
persuaded they are absolutely right.
But that bright descending fire
that melted hearts to kindness sent them
out across all gulfs to spend themselves for
others’ sakes, what put it out? Or why has it
flamed fainter, ever fainter with the years?
Is there a sacred oil can yet rekindle such a spark?
Or are we doomed to batter one another with
the truth through the encroaching dark?

J. Barrie Shepherd is a retired Presbyterian minister whose last eight years of ministry were at First Presbyterian Church in New York City. He has written extensively in the area of religious studies, has lectured and preached widely in America and abroad, and has published his poetry in a variety of publications, including previous issues of Perspectives.