The 13th Station

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Christ alone knows why I allowed them to cast me as the crucified Christ,
Christ on the cross, dead Jesus before the resurrection, 13th station,
the unluckiest one. I was just ten, when, stripped down to gym shorts,
rest of me bare as when I was born, in front of two hundred families,
I stood upon a classroom chair with arms outstretched wide
while nailed to invisible wood. I was forbidden to open my eyes
all through our weekly practices, and I obeyed, not just because
I always obeyed but also because I believed it a blessing
because I believed, more strongly than I believed in God,
that if I looked into that audience and saw my fifth grade love,
my all, Joanne Galino, grinning over my skinny arms, my hairless pits,
I would have died of shame. Five minutes I languished on that cross
while a student read a Bible passage, trying to look as dead as I could
while keeping my unsure balance. God spared me the hellfire of falling,
of Jesus locking his legs and passing out, of Christ pitching helplessly forward
onto Simon of Cyrene’s slipped-off slipper from a small misstep in Station 5.
Then the Roman soldiers, three boys and a girl, stumbled onstage and I fell
powerless into their waiting arms, giving no sign of ever having lived.
They dragged me off like a bag of tacks. Later everyone said I did dead well.
I was the best Jesus of the night. And it was then I came upon the idea
maybe Jesus pretended to die, not to spare himself, no, never this,
but so they’d stick in that spear and have man finish what God delayed.
This made me like Jesus better, thinking him a trickster like me,
who, after every promise and making sure no one noticed, I peeked,
just once, to see Joanne’s face, and found her covering her pretty eyes—
as if she knew even a boy Christ needs more than mere salvation.

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About Author

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James Valvis has placed poems or stories in Ploughshares, River Styx, Arts & Letters, Southern Indiana Review, Nimrod, Louisville Review, The Sun, and many others. His poetry was featured in Verse Daily and Best American Poetry 2017. His fiction was chosen for Sundress Best of the Net, won 2nd Place in Folio’s Editor’s Prize, and was a finalist for Best Small Fictions 2017. His work has also been a finalist for the Asimov’s Readers’ Award. A former US Army soldier, he lives near Seattle.

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