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Temple Cone

Honorable Mention : 2008 Utmost Christian Poetry Contest $100

About this Christian Poet:
Temple Cone is an assistant professor of English at the U.S. Naval Academy. He is the author of five chapbooks of poetry, the most recent of which, Eurydice & Orpheus, is due out from Finishing Line Press this year. He has received a Maryland State Arts Council Individual Artist Award in Poetry, a Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Prize, and the John Lehman Award in Poetry from Wisconsin Academy Review, and was an Open Contest Winner in Best New Poets 2005. He lives in Annapolis, Maryland with his wife and daughter.

About this Poem:
The parable of the prodigal's return in Luke 15:11-32 is perhaps the earliest passage of scripture I can remember, and its imagery has certainly haunted me as deeply as any. The son's desperate hunger and the father's joy at embracing him again, images of sin and salvation, are two sides of the same coin—love—whose value we never truly understand.

The Prodigal

From the delta of wrinkles flooding his cheeks
To the eyes slow as a fly-goaded bull's,
We know what the father wants: his son back.
But what does the boy want? You'd think he'd ask

For forgiveness. Yet the quiet way he sits,
Tongue worrying apple skin from his teeth,
Says no chance. Later he'll burst out the latched
Door and slam it hard, dust covering his tracks.

Those who watch him wonder was it cruelty
Or love that let us let the boy have his way.
Why let bones break? Aren't we good? Isn't God?
But with no break, nothing mends. Besides,

It's not about why we fail, the mostly good,
But why we never ask after the boy,
Which may account for the stolen whiskey,
His black eye, and why we're only mostly good.

Copyright ©2008 by Temple Cone