The Body Washer

He came at first, dagger in robe:
I wish to see the Prisoner!
The Prisoner sent the answer then:
First cast aside your cloaked weapon
Retreating, he is unnerved.

When next he came, one-man jihad
His meaty hands were flexed
To silence that One’s profane voice
He felt he hadn’t any choice
His mind was still perplexed

Again he hailed the prison guard:
“I wish to see the inmate!”
The Prisoner sent the answer out:
First purify your heart throughout.
Again he’d have to wait.

He wandered through the dusty streets
Bewildered and confused
Wondering what magic this
Jailed Heretic could yet possess
To know his subterfuge.

At home, he slept now sound as stone.
The dream came swift and vivid.
And it replayed an episode
And memories from his boyhood flowed
Of a shaykh who’d paid a visit.

“When you are grown” the shaykh had said,
“Watch for the Promised One!
Listen for a Persian tongue
From One atop a stair so long!”
He woke, his hatred gone.

When next he came, his hands and heart
Were cleansed but both atremble.
“I wish to see the prisoner.”
The answer from the cell up there:
Allow him now this temple.

Through the gate he saw the stair
Ascended it and entered
And when their eyes met in that hall
He fell face-down, a helpless thrall
His universe now centered

When last he came his hands got wet
Not with the blood of hatred
But holy water flowed instead,
The Prisoner, years on, was dead
He would perform the sacred.

He wet the cloth, began to wash,
Tears streaming down his face.
How could a vile assassin be
Assigned a duty this lofty?
The miracle of grace.

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