Today I learned that collections of “pocket poems” were created for soldiers fighting in World War II. This response to my own pocket poem, W.H. Auden’s “As I Walked Out One Evening,” alludes to war and deliberately distorts Biblical passages. Auden’s reference to “crooked neigbors” was so brilliant that I borrowed it, but he is credited in the endnotes.

They Wonder as They Wander

They’ve got a claim on Jesus
and cross as they’re torn all apart.
They love their crooked neighbors
but what do they use for a heart?
They’re singing Alleluia
as they wander in the Eastern town
but they haven’t got time to wonder
as the steel comes raining down.

O Jesus will you love us
as we tear ourselves limb from limb?
Will you open our souls and save us
and cleanse us of our sin?
We are the vine and you are the branch
as we stand in a state of bliss
as we bathe in the blood of our brethren
and give thanks for the Judas kiss.

We give praise as in grace we welcome
our lawfully-wedded bride
as we gaze at the wounds and the water and blood
flowing from your side.
And our sons drink what was shed for our sake
as they stagger in the Red Street
with Magdalenes of long hair
but no perfume for your feet.

We sing a new song unto the Lord
for no one after you.
For you are the Alpha and the Omega;
the shepherd boy was untrue
who read when the voice of the angel
who’d announced your holy birth
told him, Read. The exalted
and the strong shalt inherit the earth!

They’ve got a claim on Jesus
and cross as they’re torn all apart.
They loved their crooked neighbors
but what will they use for a heart?
Still singing Alleluia
as they wandered in the Eastern town
they never had time to wonder
as the steel came raining down.

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