Andrew Miller The Flesh of the Parables

The Flesh Of The Parables

In the middle of my life,

I took my inheritance and left my father’s house

Because I learned—

The way one does in a small town near the sea—

He was not my father:


He a believer in the need to believe

In all my mother’s stories could do nothing

But kneel down behind her, and,

In their corner of the house, drag a comb like a wing

Through the lapis shadows of her hair.


I could tell you all of my mother’s stories.

They are good ones.

An angel, a promise, a child expected

Miraculously as a wish,

A census, a journey, a lack of accommodation.


At last, of course, it was just she and I

Under the light of that promissory star,

A glistening through roof beams,

The season winter, a man’s face hanging

Like a carved head among the milling cows.


The day I left, I went to live among thieves.

They took me for a son.

By night, I fed their hogs, poured the fodder,

Slept on open stone.

By day, I learned to cut throats:


I became their butcher, who learned to cleave meat from bone.

It was no mystery.

Nothing to atone.

I was happy,

But for those times it seemed the sun shone on my knife’s steel.


The sun made a single eye

Staring up at me from all that blood.

Then, I would cut and cut, and flee to other work.

But the eye shined in other places.

It made the water of the lake hard


So that some times, I thought how I must walk to it,

Or it glint in the eye of a stranger

Or it showed on a stolen coin.

Where I looked, it looked at me.

When I closed my eyes, it flashed in the lid’s darkness.


Even now, I believe the most of it was dream.

Still that day when thoughtlessly I said “Rise up” and

The swine I had butchered did rise up

Bone by bone in a dance of hooves and flanks

Rejoining, snouts rooting for breath—


Totters climbing once again into their flesh,

Though meat was chewed from off their haunches,

Though the balls of their eyes rolled

Like stones back

Over the gaping tomb of those skulls’ sockets—


I was surprised.

Seeing what had I done and God-fearing,

My thieving fathers beat me.

They kicked and kicked

And when the work was done left me there in the dung red snow.


The snow I remember, and the road,

And the Samaritan’s breath, thick with wine,

But how I got to my mother’s house,

Which is not my father’s, I cannot say.

She was there, armed with shy questions,


Binding my wounds, and he also:

Sending my brothers to work,

Killing the veal calf he was saving,

Standing in corners, carrying cloth and pales,

Stealing kisses from my half closed eyes.


My friends, I have told you this before as if

It were another man’s story so that

You may ever see but never perceive,

Ever hear but never understand:

These parables of mine are fleshed in the Son of Man.



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