On the Way to Work

“What part of ‘Thou shalt not’ do you not understand?”
J., who was deaf and hadn’t been taught to read 
but who had eyes as keen as a red-tailed hawk’s
looked up at that writing on the church marquis
and only understood the contrast of meaningless
black letters on the white background and how
that made him want to paint a warm yellow sun
behind the first few words and blue-green wings
on the last few so he could fly away to the only One
who he felt had ever loved him whose picture hanging
in the little corner church looked like the One who came
and held him at night when angry words from faces
that contrasted terribly against the dimly lit air of his
bedroom hurled their way into his heart because of
something he did or didn’t do and he thought about
again when he looked up at that white church sign
with black letters and it made him want to paint
bright colors to bring the two together somehow
and join him with the kind One in the sky who said
in a language only J. could understand “Thou shalt be J.”
and “Thou shalt be good” and “Thou shalt be loved”
and “Thou shalt not be afraid.”

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