When the festival was ended and they started to return, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but his parents did not know it. (Luke 2:43)
Three days we searched the city—called his name
through market stalls, down alleys, into wells.
I felt the hot fatigue of fear and blame
in Mary’s tears. But how could I foretell
what he would do—this staid, abstracted boy
who memorized the prophets and withdrew
into himself? A childhood filled with joy
was brushed away like sawdust as he grew.
We found him in the Temple: all aglow
with rabbis’ praise. They laughed that one so young
should ask of our concern, “Did you not know
I must be in my Father’s house?” That stung
like nettles’ fire. Anyone could see
the Father he referred to wasn’t me.
It spoke to me across the cluttered shop
we’d wandered into. Slim and turtle brown,
the vase of hammered copper was inscribed
neatly in French—a single word, “Argonne,”
hinting at what it was. I picked it up
and recognized the shell-case underside.
The rheumy-eyed collector of antiques
grinned like a boy, and with a trembling hand
pointed to where the firing pin had tapped
and sprayed out leaden shrapnel seeds that fanned
the smoking fields. The delicate techniques
that soldiers learned to whittle their huge crop
of empty shells, inspired a kind of awe.
I saw them: young men desperate to go home
yet knowing war can’t end until you win it.
They picked through scrap, believing there might come
from suffering, which all men undergo,
a trophy for one’s shelf—with tulips in it.