The Right-Hand Thief


Driving a West Virginia road, I spied a group of crosses,
that mark of the American South, hard against a wall of vines

and hedges and God knows what all green. Not three,
but two: one goldish and the other, smaller, gray-white.

I think to ask my poet friend, the Reverend Julie, what’s to say
about that missing third perch, but then—I’m human—

I forget. Mark Doty’s king buck with the missing foreleg,
my old neighbor with the withered arm: the body of Christ

deserves the wide parking space. Which reminds me
of another poet friend’s young son, whose hero is “Rolly”:

on the bathroom sign, the close parking, Grandpa’s hang-tag,
always in profile and, seemingly, on the way to somewhere.

Off to see a man about a horse, my father might say,
who himself lacked the ability to read. I am missing

what might have made me want children, yet it’s what’s here
that matters. Is Jesus, short one fellow (the repenting,

or the unwavering?), diminished? Did the earth swallow
the right-hand thief’s cross, or was it stolen?