Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues on the sabbath. And just then there appeared a woman with a spirit that had crippled her for eighteen years. She was bent over and was quite unable to stand up straight. When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said, ‘Woman, you are set free from your ailment.’ When he laid his hands on her, immediately she stood up straight and began praising God. But the leader of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had cured on the sabbath, kept saying to the crowd, ‘There are six days on which work ought to be done; come on those days and be cured, and not on the sabbath day.’ But the Lord answered him and said, ‘You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger, and lead it away to give it water? And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen long years, be set free from this bondage on the sabbath day?’ When he said this, all his opponents were put to shame; and the entire crowd was rejoicing at all the wonderful things that he was doing. (Luke 13:10-17)
Stolen. One dollar. By one small skinny black boy
with sugar smeared on his face,
white sugar speckling the tough curls on top of his head,
and eyebrows like exaggerated question marks –
Who me?And me, hurt, white grown-up
with lots of dollars to buy mountains of candy,
more than anyone could want – Yes, you. How could you, Abraham?
So I kicked him out, barred him from my house FOREVER
and thought to myself That’s what I get for …
Didn’t finish the sentence.
Only later, cleaning up the house, alone,
still throbbing with self-righteousness, I remembered
‘Property is theft,’ Phil always used to say, serenely,
whenever I bumped someone else’s car, trying to park, and didn’t leave a note,
or scratched the floor of a rented apartment.
Sometimes, as a young person, I stole – a pair of pants
I just wanted once, they were too expensive,
so I wore them out of the dressing room, under my own baggy jeans,
under the nose of the security guard.
I’ve stolen Tampax when I was mad at the patriarchy.
I’ve certainly tried to avoid paying taxes, I’ve stolen time
at work to make personal phone calls, write these poems – doesn’t
everyone do it?
We learn early and harshly:
this is mine, that’s yours.
And then go through life, taking and taking
trying not to get caught.
And one young boy in front of my house,
his people long ago stolen from their homeland and brought here,
labor stolen, language lost, children taken
from their mothers and sold – he’s kicking pebbles, ‘on punishment’ already
for throwing a rock that hit his sister in the eye –
though he says he didn’t mean it – asking me,
‘Patty can come in but I can’t? Why?’
‘You know why.’
‘Cause I stole?’
‘Yeah, and it made me mad.’
Elementary lessons. Abraham, I am late myself, in unlearning separation.
Just what the hell do I think I’m trying to teach you now,
and what am I teaching you, small, outlawed
piece of my heart out there, scuffing your lonely
bottle-cap and insisting you didn’t do it, didn’t do it, didn’t do it?
© Alison Luterman, ‘Stolen Sentences for Abraham’, in The Largest Possible Life. Cleveland State University Poetry Center, 2001. #40ways40days. Photo by Jack Harner on Unsplash.
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