The Testament of Philogenes the Gardener

Michael Peach

I am an ancient gardener,
    Philogenes by name –
Though Adam I have called myself
    Since to this land I came.

In Zion I was born and raised,
    While not so far from me
The one they now call Christ the Lord
    Grew up in Galilee.

In truth I never met the man,
    Despite my Christian boss,
A Pharisee, who loaned the tomb
    When died he on the cross.

Nor do I know if Yeshu saw
    Himself as Son divine,
Instead of mortal prophet who
    Should hubris undermine.

The day he died I was away,
    I always fled the crowd
That thronged the city at the Feast
    And pushed, and pulled, and rowed.

On Sabbath, though, I overheard
    The body had been laid
Within the very tomb behind
    A lettuce bed I’d made.

Apparently a multitude
    Had come to view the cave:
Just then the only thought I had
    Was how those plants to save.

It took all day to walk back home,
    I got there late at night;
At four I rose and stealthily
    Approached that dreaded site.

In twilight dim, without delay
    I moved the casualties;
From compost pit I then beheld
    A woman on her knees.

I scrambled out, but off she sped
    Before I could her call;
When heard I voices soon fast by,
    I hid behind a wall.

The woman now was with two men,
    And to the cave they rushed;
I watched while more prize lettuces
    Were felled, or split, or crushed.

I held my breath as they unrolled
    The stone along its groove;
“He has arisen!” someone cried.
    I was too stunned to move:

For if they thought an empty tomb
    Meant resurrection plain –
Instead of, say, removal sly –
    The crowds would come again.

Yet this was not my only dread,
    I feared the Christian mind;
And time has shown I was correct
    To leave it all behind.

While Jewish groups deem Christ  became
    The Son of God above,
Some proselytes appear to think
    That God bore flesh for love.

Thus, step by step, in psychic terms
    The Name is yielding power
To man, who in the sombre tale
    Erects the Babel Tower.

Moreover, every Christian dreams
    Of dark apocalypse:
For he well knows unconsciously
    God’s world he would eclipse.

O let us heed our primal myth,
    Which serves the flesh and soul,
Where earth’s the garden of the Lord
    And he who loves it whole.

1 January 2000

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