To date P52 is the oldest extant verse discovered from the New Testament at approximately 125 AD. I find it interesting that almost the whole of the Gospel is stated in these words from this tiny fragment.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The papyrus is written on both sides and hence must be from a codex, a sewn and folded book, not a scroll, roll or isolated sheet; and the surviving portion also includes part of the top and inner margins of the page. The recto consequently preserves the top left corner of a right-hand page; while the verso preserves the top right corner of a left-hand page. The characters in bold style are the ones that can be seen in Papyrus 52.
Gospel of John 18:31-33 (recto)
ΟΙ ΙΟΥΔΑΙΟΙ ΗΜΕIΝ ΟΥΚ ΕΞΕΣΤΙΝ ΑΠΟΚΤΕΙΝΑΙ
OYΔΕΝΑ ΙΝΑ Ο ΛΟΓΟΣ ΤΟΥ ΙΗΣΟΥ ΠΛΗΡΩΘΗ ΟΝ ΕΙ-
ΠΕΝ ΣHΜΑΙΝΩΝ ΠΟΙΩ ΘΑΝΑΤΩ ΗΜΕΛΛΕΝ ΑΠΟ-
ΘΝHΣΚΕΙΝ ΙΣΗΛΘΕΝ ΟΥΝ ΠΑΛΙΝ ΕΙΣ ΤΟ ΠΡΑΙΤΩ-
ΡΙΟΝ Ο ΠIΛΑΤΟΣ ΚΑΙ ΕΦΩΝΗΣΕΝ ΤΟΝ ΙΗΣΟΥΝ
ΚΑΙ ΕΙΠΕΝ ΑΥΤΩ ΣΥ ΕΙ O ΒΑΣΙΛΕΥΣ ΤΩΝ ΙΟΥ-
the Jews, “For us it is not permitted to kill
anyone,” so that the word of Jesus might be fulfilled, which he sp-
oke signifying what kind of death he was going to
die. Entered therefore again into the Praeto-
rium Pilate and summoned Jesus
and said to him, “Thou art king of the
Gospel of John 18:37-38 (verso)
ΒΑΣΙΛΕΥΣ ΕΙΜΙ ΕΓΩ ΕΙΣ TOΥΤΟ ΓΕΓΕΝΝΗΜΑΙ
ΚΑΙ (ΕΙΣ ΤΟΥΤΟ) ΕΛΗΛΥΘΑ ΕΙΣ ΤΟΝ ΚΟΣΜΟΝ ΙΝΑ ΜΑΡΤY-
ΡΗΣΩ ΤΗ ΑΛΗΘΕΙΑ ΠΑΣ Ο ΩΝ EΚ ΤΗΣ ΑΛΗΘΕI-
ΑΣ ΑΚΟΥΕΙ ΜΟΥ ΤΗΣ ΦΩΝΗΣ ΛΕΓΕΙ ΑΥΤΩ
Ο ΠΙΛΑΤΟΣ ΤΙ ΕΣΤΙΝ ΑΛΗΘΕΙΑ ΚAΙ ΤΟΥΤO
ΕΙΠΩΝ ΠΑΛΙΝ ΕΞΗΛΘΕΝ ΠΡΟΣ ΤΟΥΣ ΙΟΥ-
ΔΑΙΟΥΣ ΚΑΙ ΛΕΓΕΙ ΑΥΤΟΙΣ ΕΓΩ ΟΥΔEΜΙΑΝ
ΕΥΡΙΣΚΩ ΕΝ ΑΥΤΩ ΑΙΤΙΑΝ
a King I am. For this I have been born
and (for this) I have come into the world so that I would test-
ify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth
hears of me my voice.” Said to him
Pilate, “What is truth?” and this
having said, again he went out unto the Jews
and said to them, “I find not one
fault in him.”
From INTRODUCTION TO THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO SAINT JOHN Vol.I
By William Barclay
The Beloved Disciple
… All our information about John comes from the first three gospels. It is the astonishing fact that the Fourth Gospel never mentions the apostle John from beginning to end. But it does mention two other people.
First, it speaks of the disciple whom Jesus loved. There are four mentions of him. He was leaning on Jesus’ breast at the Last Supper (John 13:23-25); it is into his care that Jesus committed Mary as he died upon his Cross (John 19:25-27); it was Peter and he whom Mary Magdalene met on her return from the empty tomb on the first Easter morning (John 20:2); he was present at the last resurrection appearance of Jesus by the lake-side (John 21:20).
Second, the Fourth Gospel has a kind of character whom we might call the witness. As the Fourth Gospel tells of the spear thrust into the side of Jesus and the issue of the water and the blood, there comes the comment: “He who saw it has borne witness–his testimony is true, and he knows that he tells the truth–that you also may believe” (John 19:35). At the end of the gospel comes the statement that it was the beloved disciple who testified of these things “and we know that his testimony is true” (John 21:24).
Here we are faced with rather a strange thing. In the Fourth Gospel John is never mentioned, but the beloved disciple is and in addition there is a witness of some kind to the whole story. It has never really been doubted in tradition that the beloved disciple is John. A few have tried to identify him with Lazarus, for Jesus is said to have loved Lazarus (John 11:3-5), or with the Rich Young Ruler, of whom it is said that Jesus, looking on him, loved him (Mark 10:21). But although the gospel never says so in so many words, tradition has always identified the beloved disciple with John, and there is no real need to doubt the identification.
But a very real point arises–suppose John himself actually did the writing of the gospel, would he really be likely to speak of himself as the disciple whom Jesus loved? Would he really be likely to pick himself out like this, and, as it were, to say: “I was his favourite; he loved me best of all”? It is surely very unlikely that John would confer such a title on himself. If it was conferred by others, it is a lovely title; if it was conferred by himself, it comes perilously near to an almost incredible self-conceit.
Is there any way then that the gospel can be John’s own eye-witness story, and yet at the same time have been actually written down by someone else?
The Production of the Church
In our search for the truth we begin by noting one of the outstanding and unique features of the Fourth Gospel. The most remarkable thing about it is the long speeches of Jesus. Often they are whole chapters long, and are entirely unlike the way in which Jesus is portrayed as speaking in the other three gospels. The Fourth Gospel, as we have seen, was written about the year A.D. 100, that is, about seventy years after the crucifixion. Is it possible after these seventy years to look on these speeches as word for word reports of what Jesus said? Or can we explain them in some way that is perhaps even greater than that? We must begin by holding in our minds the fact of the speeches and the question which they inevitably raise.
And we have something to add to that. It so happens that in the writings of the early church we have a whole series of accounts of the way in which the Fourth Gospel came to be written. The earliest is that of Irenaeus who was bishop of Lyons about A.D. 177; and Irenaeus was himself a pupil of Polycarp, who in turn had actually been a pupil of John. There is therefore a direct link between Irenaeus and John. Irenaeus writes:
“John, the disciple of the Lord, who also leant upon his breast,
himself also published the gospel in Ephesus, when he was living
The suggestive thing there is that Irenaeus does not merely say that John wrote the gospel; he says that John published (exedoke) it in Ephesus. The word that Irenaeus uses makes it sound, not like the private publication of some personal memoir, but like the public issue of some almost official document.
The next account is that of Clement who was head of the great school of Alexandria about A.D. 230. He writes:
“Last of all, John perceiving that the bodily facts had been made
plain in the gospel, being urged by his friends, composed a
The important thing here is the phrase being urged by his friends. It begins to become clear that the Fourth Gospel is far more than one man’s personal production and that there is a group, a community, a church behind it. On the same lines, a tenth-century manuscript called the Codex Toletanus, which prefaces the New Testament books with short descriptions, prefaces the Fourth Gospel thus:
“The apostle John, whom the Lord Jesus loved most, last of all
wrote this gospel, at the request of the bishops of Asia, against
Cerinthus and other heretics.”
Again we have the idea that behind the Fourth Gospel there is the authority of a group and of a church.
We now turn to a very important document, known as the Muratorian Canon. It is so called after a scholar Muratori who discovered it. It is the first list of New Testament books which the church ever issued and was compiled in Rome about A.D. 170. Not only does it list the New Testament books, it also gives short accounts of the origin and nature and contents of each of them. Its account of the way in which the Fourth Gospel came to be written is extremely important and illuminating.
“At the request of his fellow-disciples and of his bishops, John,
one of the disciples, said: ‘Fast with me for three days from
this time and whatsoever shall be revealed to each of us, whether it be favourable to my writing or not, let us relate it to one another.’ On the same night it was revealed to Andrew that John should relate all things, aided by the revision of all.”
We cannot accept all that statement, because it is not possible that Andrew, the apostle, was in Ephesus in A.D. 100; but the point is that it is stated as clearly as possible that, while the authority and the mind and the memory behind the Fourth Gospel are that of John, it is clearly and definitely the product, not of one man, but of a group and a community.
Now we can see something of what happened. About the year A.D. 100 there was a group of men in Ephesus whose leader was John. They revered him as a saint and they loved him as a father. He must have been almost a hundred years old. Before he died, they thought most wisely that it would be a great thing if the aged apostle set down his memories of the years when he had been with Jesus. But in the end they did far more than that. We can think of them sitting down and reliving the old days. One would say: “Do you remember how Jesus said … ?” And John would say: “Yes, and now we know that he meant…”
In other words this group was not only writing down what Jesus said; that would have been a mere feat of memory. They were writing down what Jesus meant; that was the guidance of the Holy Spirit. John had thought about every word that Jesus had said; and he had thought under the guidance of the Holy Spirit who was so real to him. W. M. Macgregor has a sermon entitled: “What Jesus becomes to a man who has known him long.” That is a perfect description of the Jesus of the Fourth Gospel. A. H. N. Green Armytage puts the thing perfectly in his book John who saw. Mark, he says, suits the missionary with his clear-cut account of the facts of Jesus’ life; Matthew suits the teacher with his systematic account of the teaching of Jesus; Luke suits the parish minister or priest with his wide sympathy and his picture of Jesus as the friend of all; but John is the gospel of the contemplative.
He goes on to speak of the apparent contrast between Mark and John. “The two gospels are in a sense the same gospel. Only, where Mark saw things plainly, bluntly, literally, John saw them subtly, profoundly, spiritually. We might say that John lit Mark’s pages by the lantern of a lifetime’s meditation.” Wordsworth defined poetry as “Emotion recollected in tranquility.” That is a perfect description of the Fourth Gospel. That is why John is unquestionably the greatest of all the gospels. Its aim is, not to give us what Jesus said like a newspaper report, but to give us what Jesus meant. In it the Risen Christ still speaks. John is not so much The Gospel according to St. John; it is rather The Gospel according to the Holy Spirit. It was not John of Ephesus who wrote the Fourth Gospel; it was the Holy Spirit who wrote it through John.
The Penman of the Gospel
We have one question still to ask. We can be quite sure that the mind and the memory behind the Fourth Gospel is that of John the apostle; but we have also seen that behind it is a witness who was the writer, in the sense that he was the actual penman. Can we find out who he was? We know from what the early church writers tell us that there were actually two Johns in Ephesus at the same time. There was John the apostle, but there was another John, who was known as John the elder.
Papias, who loved to collect all that he could find about the history of the New Testament and the story of Jesus, gives us some very interesting information. He was Bishop of Hierapolis, which is quite near Ephesus, and his dates are from about A.D. 70 to about A.D. 145. That is to say, he was actually a contemporary of John. He writes how he tried to find out “what Andrew said or what Peter said, or what was said by Philip, by Thomas, or by James, or by John, or by Matthew, or by any other of the disciples of the Lord; and what things Aristion and the elder John, the disciples of the Lord, say.” In Ephesus there was the apostle John, and the elder John; and the elder John was so well-loved a figure that he was actually known as The Elder. He clearly had a unique place in the church. Both Eusebius and Dionysius the Great tell us that even to their own days in Ephesus there were two famous tombs, the one of John the apostle, and the other of John the elder.
Now let us turn to the two little letters, Second John and Third John. The letters come from the same hand as the gospel, and how do they begin? The second letter begins: “The elder unto the elect lady and her children” (2 John 1:1 ). The third letter begins: “The elder unto the beloved Gaius” (3 John 1:1 ). Here we have our solution. The actual penman of the letters was John the elder; the mind and memory behind them was the aged John the apostle, the master whom John the elder always described as “the disciple whom Jesus loved.”
The Precious Gospel
The more we know about the Fourth Gospel the more precious it becomes. For seventy years John had thought of Jesus. Day by day the Holy Spirit had opened out to him the meaning of what Jesus said. So when John was near the century of life and his days were numbered, he and his friends sat down to remember. John the elder held the pen to write for his master, John the apostle; and the last of the apostles set down, not only what he had heard Jesus say, but also what he now knew Jesus had meant. He remembered how Jesus had said: “I have yet many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of Truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth” (John 16:12-13). There were many things which seventy years ago he had not understood; there were many things which in these seventy years the Spirit of Truth had revealed to him. These things John set down even as the eternal glory was dawning upon him. When we read this gospel let us remember that we are reading the gospel which of all the gospels is most the work of the Holy Spirit, speaking to us of the things which Jesus meant, speaking through the mind and memory of John the apostle and by the pen of John the elder. Behind this gospel is the whole church at Ephesus, the whole company of the saints, the last of the apostles, the Holy Spirit, the Risen Christ himself.
The Speaking Voice
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was
An intelligent plain man, untaught in the truths of Christianity, coming upon this text, would likely conclude that John meant to teach that it is the nature of God to speak, to communicate His thoughts to others. And he would be right. A word is a medium by which thoughts are expressed, and the application of the term to the Eternal Son leads us to believe that self-expression is inherent in the Godhead, that God is forever seeking to speak Himself out to His creation. The whole Bible supports the idea. God is speaking. Not God spoke, but God is
speaking. He is by His nature continuously articulate. He fills the world with
His speaking Voice.
One of the great realities with which we have to deal is the Voice of God in His world. The briefest and only satisfying cosmogony is this: `He spake and it was done.’ The why of natural law is the living Voice of God immanent in His creation. And this word of God which brought all worlds into being cannot be understood to mean the Bible, for it is not a written or printed word at all,but the expression of the will of God spoken into the structure of all things.
This word of God is the breath of God filling the world with living
potentiality. The Voice of God is the most powerful force in nature, indeed the
only force in nature, for all energy is here only because the power-filled Word
is being spoken.
The Bible is the written word of God, and because it is written it is confined
and limited by the necessities of ink and paper and leather. The Voice of God,
however, is alive and free as the sovereign God is free. `The words that I speak
unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.’ The life is in the speaking
words. God’s word in the Bible can have power only because it corresponds to
God’s word in the universe. It is the present Voice which makes the written Word
all- powerful. Otherwise it would lie locked in slumber within the covers of a
We take a low and primitive view of things when we conceive of God at the
creation coming into physical contact with things, shaping and fitting and
building like a carpenter. The Bible teaches otherwise: `By the word of the Lord
were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth.
…For he spake, and it was done; he commanded, and it stood fast.’ (Ps 33:6,9)
`Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God.’
(Heb 11:3) Again we must remember that God is referring ere not to His written
Word, but to His speaking Voice. His world-filling Voice is meant, that Voice
which antedates the Bible by uncounted centuries, that Voice which has not been
silent since the dawn of creation, but is sounding still throughout the full far
reaches of the universe.
The Word of God is quick and powerful. In the beginning He spoke to nothing, and
it became something. Chaos heard it and became order, darkness heard it and
became light. `And God said – – and it was so.’ (Gen 1:9) These twin phrases, as
cause and effect, occur throughout the Genesis story of the creation. The said
accounts for the so. The so is the said put into the continuous present. That
God is here and that He is speaking–these truths are back of all other Bible
truths; without them there could be no revelation at all. God did not write a
book and send it by messenger to be read at a distance by unaided minds. He
spoke a Book and lives in His spoken words, constantly speaking His words and
causing the power of them to persist across the years. God breathed on clay and
it became a man; He breathes on men and they become clay. `Return ye children of men,’ (Ps 90:3) was the word spoken at the Fall by which God decreed the death of every man, and no added word has He needed to speak. The sad procession of mankind across the face of the earth from birth to the grave is proof that His original Word was enough.
We have not given sufficient attention to that deep utterance in the Book of
John, `That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the
world.’ (John 1:9) Shift the punctuation around as we will and the truth is
still there: the Word of God affects the hearts of all men as light in the soul.
In the hearts of all men the light shines, the Word sounds, and there is no
escaping them. Something like this would of necessity be so if God is alive and
in His world. And John says that it is so. Even those persons who have never
heard of the Bible have still been preached to with sufficient clarity to remove
every excuse from their hearts forever. `Which show the work of the law written
in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the
mean while either accusing or else excusing one another.’ (Rom 2:15) `For the
invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being
understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so
that they are without excuse.’ (Rom 1:20)
This universal Voice of God was by the ancient Hebrews often called Wisdom, and
was said to be everywhere sounding and searching throughout the earth, seeking
some response from the sons of men. The eighth chapter of the Book of Proverbs
begins, `Doth not wisdom cry? and understanding put forth her voice?’ The writer
then pictures wisdom as a beautiful woman standing `in the top of the high
places, by the way in the places of the paths.’ She sounds her voice from every
quarter so that no one may miss hearing it. `Unto you, O men, I call; and my
voice is to the sons of men.’ Then she pleads for the simple and the foolish to
give ear to her words. It is spiritual response for which this Wisdom of God is
pleading, a response which she has always sought and is but rarely able to
secure. The tragedy is that our eternal welfare depends upon our hearing, and we
have trained our ears not to hear.
This universal Voice has ever sounded, and it has often troubled men even when
they did not understand the source of their fears. Could it be that this Voice
distilling like a living mist upon the hearts of men has been the undiscovered
cause of the troubled conscience and the longing for immortality confessed by
millions since the dawn of recorded history? We need not fear to face up to
this. The speaking Voice is a fact. How men have reacted to it is for any
observer to note.
When God spoke out of heaven to our Lord, self-centered men who heard it
explained it by natural causes: they said, `It thundered.’ This habit of
explaining the Voice by appeals to natural law is at the very root of modern
science. In the living breathing cosmos there is a mysterious Something, too
wonderful, too awful [i.e. `awesome’] for any mind to understand. The believing
man does not claim to understand. He falls to his knees and whispers, `God.’ The
man of earth kneels also, but not to worship. He kneels to examine, to search,
to find the cause and the how of things. Just now we happen to be living in a
secular age. Our thought habits are those of the scientist, not those of the
worshipper. We are more likely to explain than to adore. `It thundered,’ we
exclaim, and go our earthly way. But still the Voice sounds and searches. The
order and life of the world depend upon that Voice, but men are mostly too busy
or too stubborn to give attention.
Everyone of us has had experiences which we have not been able to explain: a
sudden sense of loneliness, or a feeling of wonder or awe in the face of the
universal vastness. Or we have had a fleeting visitation of light like an
illumination from some other sun, giving us in a quick flash an assurance that
we are from another world, that our origins are divine. What we saw there, or
felt, or heard, may have been contrary to all that we had been taught in the
schools and at wide variance with all our former beliefs and opinions. We were
forced to suspend our acquired doubts while, for a moment, the clouds were
rolled back and we saw and heard for ourselves. Explain such things as we will,
I think we have not been fair to the facts until we allow at least the
possibility that such experiences may arise from the Presence of God in the
world and His persistent effort to communicate with mankind. Let us not dismiss
such an hypothesis too flippantly.
It is my own belief (and here I shall not feel bad if no one follows me) that
every good and beautiful thing which man has produced in the world has been the
result of his faulty and sin-blocked response to the creative Voice sounding
over the earth. The moral philosophers who dreamed their high dreams of virtue,
the religious thinkers who speculated about God and immortality, the poets and
artists who created out of common stuff pure and lasting beauty: how can we
explain them? It is not enough to say simply, `It was genius.’ What then is
genius? Could it be that a genius is a man haunted by the speaking Voice,
laboring and striving like one possessed to achieve ends which he only vaguely
understands? That the great man may have missed God in his labors, that he may
even have spoken or written against God does not destroy the idea I am
advancing. God’s redemptive revelation in the Holy Scriptures is necessary to
saving faith and peace with God. Faith in a risen Saviour is necessary if the
vague stirrings toward immortality are to bring us to restful and satisfying
communion with God. To me this is a plausible explanation of all that is best
outside of Christ. But you can be a good Christian and not accept my thesis.
The Voice of God is a friendly Voice. No one need fear to listen to it unless he
has already made up his mind to resist it. The blood of Jesus has covered not
only the human race but all creation as well. `And having made peace through the
blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say,
whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven.’ (Col 1:20) We may safely
preach a friendly Heaven. The heavens as well as the earth are filled with the
good will of Him that dwelt in the bush (Ex. 3). The perfect blood of atonement
secures this forever.
Whoever will listen will hear the speaking Heaven. This is definitely not the
hour when men take kindly to an exhortation to listen, for listening is not
today a part of popular religion. We are at the opposite end of the pole from
there. Religion has accepted the monstrous heresy that noise, size, activity and
bluster make a man dear to God. But we may take heart. To a people caught in the tempest of the last great conflict God says, `Be still, and know that I am God,’
(Ps 46:10) and still He says it, as if He means to tell us that our strength and
safety lie not in noise but in silence.
It is important that we get still to wait on God. And it is best that we get
alone, preferably with our Bible outspread before us. Then if we will we may
draw near to God and begin to hear Him speak to us in our hearts. I think for
the average person the progression will be something like this: First a sound as
of a Presence walking in the garden. Then a voice, more intelligible, but still
far from clear. Then the happy moment when the Spirit begins to illuminate the
Scriptures, and that which had been only a sound, or at best a voice, now
becomes an intelligible word, warm and intimate and clear as the word of a dear
friend. Then will come life and light, and best of all, ability to see and rest
in and embrace Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord and All.
The Bible will never be a living Book to us until we are convinced that God is
articulate in His universe. To jump from a dead, impersonal world to a dogmatic
Bible is too much for most people. They may admit that they should accept the
Bible as the Word of God, and they may try to think of it as such, but they find
it impossible to believe that the words there on the page are actually for them.
A man may say, `These words are addressed to me,’ and yet in his heart not feel
and know that they are. He is the victim of a divided psychology. He tries to
think of God as mute everywhere else and vocal only in a book.
I believe that much of our religious unbelief is due to a wrong conception of
and a wrong feeling for the Scriptures of Truth. A silent God suddenly began to
speak in a book and when the book was finished lapsed back into silence again
forever. Now we read the book as the record of what God said when He was for a
brief time in a speaking mood. With notions like that in our heads how can we
believe? The facts are that God is not silent, has never been silent. It is the
nature of God to speak. The second Person of the Holy Trinity is called the
word. The Bible is the inevitable outcome of God’s continuous speech. It is the
infallible declaration of His mind for us put into our familiar human words.
I think a new world will arise out of the religious mists when we approach our
Bible with the idea that it is not only a book which was once spoken, but a book
which is now speaking. The prophets habitually said, `Thus saith the Lord.’ They
meant their hearers to understand that God’s speaking is in the continuous
present. We may use the past tense properly to indicate that at a certain time a
certain word of God was spoken, but a word of God once spoken continues to be
spoken, as a child once born continues to be alive, or a world once created
continues to exist. And those are but imperfect illustrations, for children die
and worlds burn out, but the Word of our God endureth forever.
If you would follow on to know the Lord, come at once to the open Bible
expecting it to speak to you. Do not come with the notion that it is a thing
which you may push around at your convenience. It is more than a thing, it is a
voice, a word, the very Word of the living God. Lord, teach me to listen. The
times are noisy and my ears are weary with the thousand raucous sounds which
continuously assault them. Give me the spirit of the boy Samuel when he said to
Thee, `Speak, for thy servant heareth.’ Let me hear Thee speaking in my heart.
Let me get used to the sound of Thy Voice, that its tones may be familiar when
the sounds of earth die away and the only sound will be the music of Thy
speaking Voice. Amen.
The Pursuit of God, Chapter 6, by A. W. Tozer
Above Lyman’s riffle
At the old man’s house,
Falling down a little more a year
After his death, in the
Hot August now cooling dusk
I waited for the red glow
Down river &
Swallows… swallows in the evening light!
I can see to my right the
100 year old black walnut
& cherry orchard
Across the road, up the hill Ernie’s hard rock mine
& Sardine Creek trickling
In through the willows upstream
That held specimen nuggets as big as your thumb!
I’m watching the old chimney’s brick
That juts upward from the tin roof
Below Lyman mountain,
The old man wasn’t born in this house
They built it when he was two, he was born
Across the road near where
I tore the apple packing shed down two years before,
Full of 19th Century artifacts, a “Coolerator”
Icebox, with only three bullet holes &
Behind the siding on the inside wall
Written in pencil, was a scribe from 80 years ago,
“Amen, Brother Ben,
Shot at a Rooster and hit a hen!”
From a ladder I sided my cabin
With those old Douglas fir lap boards,
While my own children squealed
& ran across my side hill
& now the wary Table Rock Black-tail deer
Are waiting on after dusk for a drink of river,
& now swallows begin to draw close
& for one minute come together
In ever tightening circles & swirl together
Then as one & into whirling black-funnel-down-cloud
Fifty feet in height above the house
& they are into-the-chimney
In one second &
Full of this days hatch
Settling for brick gripped sleep
This is what I waited for..
All pretty much at once it happens
On these August evenings
& the thirsty bucks stop their pant
& began to move & will slake their thirst
& I have taken a 10 pound steelhead from the riffle
On wet fly, a Teeter’s weighted-woolly-worm,
Ernie, gone about a year–had told me it was an evening riffle
Returning to my cabin I fed my family steelhead fillets
& read the Gospel of John
One more time..