“When he saw the crowds, he went up the mountain, and after he sat down his disciples came to him, and he opened his mouth…”


Some sat, some stood,
all in coarse, itchy coats,
all panting in anticipation,
all wanting the reveal
in spite of the mystery.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs… Blessed are those who mourn… Blessed are the… who hunger and thirst… Blessed are… Blessed… Blessed… Blessed… who are persecuted… Blessed are you when they insult you… Rejoice and be glad. … You are the salt…”


Many words slipped by
the children wanting toys,
the siblings wanting first,
the mothers wanting most,
all the litter of the field.

“…I have not come to destroy… Whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments… will be called least in the kingdom… Whoever does them… will be called great in the kingdom… if your righteousness is not greater than… you will never enter into the kingdom…”


Certain words like thunder
caused cloudy heads to cock,
caused filling ears to twitch,
caused empty jaws to drop,
any time his voice repeated
or cut out.

“…’fool’ will be sent to a fiery hell. … Agree quickly… or your accuser may hand you over to the judge… you will be thrown into prison.”


Every word their minds could
hold, they held as for them alone. Some
huffed they were only words. Some
whimpered there were too many. Some
howled and collapsed to the ground.

“…’You shall not commit…’ But I say to you that everyone who looks… has already committed… If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out… if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off… cast into hell.”


Some lying down began to gnaw
on sticks,
on straps,
on finger bones.
Others snapped at him or paced—
vying for attention.

“’ …Yes, yes,’ or ‘no, no.’ Whatever is more than this is evil.”


One rolled in the dirt,
another leaned against the master’s thigh,
another dug frantically under his rock,
another tore leaves off branches.
Many wavered, dizzy-like.

He just kept speaking.

“…what reward do you have? …And if you greet your brothers and sisters only, what are you doing better than others? Do not the people of other nations do the same?”


All hit their limits
well short of his,
well at last,
well enough off. In
all cases, they submitted.

“…If so, you have no reward from your Father… hypocrites… they have their reward… your Father, who sees in secret, will reward you. …their reward… Father… will reward… reward.”


So many words slipped by them.

Overwhelmed, they curled up,
began to breathe slower,
began to grow still,
began to love lying
under his eyes, beneath his words.

“Enter through the narrow gate, because… Everyone who hears my words and does not do them is like a foolish…”


When the words ceased,
he smiled at each of them,
he gently traced their brows,
he thanked them for listening.
Then he left them.

Poets Notes:

This poem integrates fragments from Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount. The text is from Thomas Wayment’s The New Testament: A Translation for Latter-day Saints. Below are references for the quotes:

  1. Matthew 5:1-2
  2. 5:3-13
  3. 5:7-20
  4. 5:22-25
  5. 5:27-30
  6. 5:37
  7. 5:46-47
  8. 6:1-2, 4-6, 16
  9. 7:13, 26

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