Nikolay Nikolayevich Ge (1831–94), “What Is Truth?”
Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow
Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

The Lord God said to Moses
See My Glory and you die
Isaiah cried out: woe am I
Distress for I have seen it

So the Lord delivered down
To Earth His Son who was resplendent
But in appearance innocent
Not harmful to His creatures

A man, true man, just like themselves
A body and a living breath
The sight of whom did not mean death
Whose words would teach them truth

So they, amazed, killed Him instead
When hungry they consumed His bread
They were the creatures that He fed
Anointed though He was

His glory was invisible
To those who dwelled upon the Earth
This creature of a Virgin birth
Blessed was His mother

But so they would not perish from
The very vision of His light
And had no place for such delight
He was true man as well as God

Look now at others like yourself
Although they are not yet divine
Blessed be they for they are Mine
Harm not and be like Him



Peter Koenig (contemporary), “Jesus at the Sea of Galilee”
The Parish of St. Edward

Except transfiguration
They did not see his glory
After Jesus rose
He seemed so ordinary

Then what were the signs
He was the Son of God?
Nothing in appearance
That made Him even odd

Except perhaps the wounds
That Thomas could have touched
Beyond these lacerations
Not transcendent much

Even at the sea
Fish upon a flame
Distributed to each
Friends He called by name

But who can raise the dead
And who can walk the waves
Distribute loaves of bread
That no one ever saved?

The rules that only God
Commanded were reversed
To show He was the One
Who made the universe

Things come into being
That never were before
Unfamiliar seeing
A breakfast on the shore



Theophilia, “The Divine Mercy”

Shostakovich kept a toothbrush in his pocket
At any moment Stalin could give orders
Men arrived in modest plainclothes jackets
Dmitri Dmitriyevich please come with us

Well then, the Lord God Jesus in his Temple
Can also give an order to depart
What do you have as fallback in your pocket
When messengers present a mortal warrant?

Acknowledgement perhaps and some remorse?
Those will not serve travelers so well
Say to Him: My Lord I have my trust
At last I know the lovely world, Your love

Is sometimes vigorous but never cruel
And life, the life You gave me, is a school



Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn (1606–69), “The Return of the Prodigal Son”
Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia
Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

She couldn’t sleep most of the night
And said recall had made her restless
There is a sight which comes, destroying sight

The world which lives inside our minds
Insists on its reality
As if by night there were no other kind

But I remember how we closed
Side to side and arm to arm
Against those vivid nightmare foes

The enemy we call Accuser
Presents the bill of accusation
Before the Judge, our bright Defender

His name is Mercy, Brightness, Flame
Of life which death may not extinguish
Only say His holy Name



Tom Lea (1907–2001), “That 2,000-Yard Stare”
U.S. Army Center for Military History, Washington DC
Courtesy Tom Lea Institute

He was so old he fought a war
But no one knows what it was for
He said one bullet flew past here
Another past the other ear

If I had turned my head one way
I would have died without delay
If I had turned it otherwise
It would have been a quick demise

So listen, keep your head on square
With bullets whizzing everywhere
To the left and to the right
It makes no difference in a fight

In politics it is the same
Left or right is just a name
The center is the place to be
To keep at bay fatality



Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias)
Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

With S-shaped neck
Long sickle wings
Guardsman’s beak for stabbing
Heron of the creek

You rose from a barricade
Of dead logs and leaves
Dense sieves
Spring floods had made

Splendid one and tall
Gray and majestic
Neck elastic
You rose above the wall

Legs attached
With gravity
We earthlings watched



Andrei Rublev (1360s–c. 1427–30), “The Trinity”
Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow
Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

The Holy Trinity sat down
The icon of Andrei Rublev
They spoke of judgment yet to come

What verdict on this wretched race
Whose evil works against itself?
There was long silence as they sat

Love shone out upon the Three
Radiance of a shining sun
The morning of a golden summer

A sounding bell of silver ringing
In the chamber of those Three—
They listened, watched our will to grace

But there was smoke, annihilation
Writhing in the golden light
Tubes and coils of serpent wrath

Evil raged against itself
Revenge for its sterility
Against the living who could breathe and see

As I watched the vision failed
The final judgment not yet made
Great silence grew around the Holy Trinity