Happy Easter, y’all.
When Jesus came east out of Texas, He came out tan,
even dark skinned, brown eyes, black hair. A Somebody
He could’ve been, being Jesus. Instead He was
a cotton chopping, dish washing, toilet cleaning, hard working
Man of a Jesus, His hands calloused from the fields He’d worked,
His muscles aching so tired He could hardly sleep most nights.
When Jesus came east out of Texas, He came out kicking-up dirt
along the lonely, dusty road leaving Nazareth
coming into a country that don’t allow a kicking up dirt.
Run out of town He was
near tarred and feathered for saying a thing that was true.
You see, a prophet don’t get a bit of respect in the town He’s from.
Nazareth folk knew His mama and His stepdaddy,
claimed they’s always acting uppity like his kin was closer to the Almighty than anybody,
keeping the Sabbath and testifying,
yes testifying they’d been touched by the Lord’s own hand.
Said they’d seen an angel too. “Imagine that,” some said.
“God can’t be that real, just one big myth and no place to be found.
We townspeople been praying way too long for the Expected One
and we’re not about to be taken in by a bastard Son of Joachim’s child.
If this Jesus is a messiah, the town drunk must be Moses.
After all, that drunk would part the Red Sea too if there’s a bottle of whiskey on the other shore.
And he can quote the Scriptures better’n any Baptist preacher.”
When Jesus came east out of Texas, He scrounged up work wherever He could,
roustabouting on the rigs out in the Gulf,
picking peaches over Georgia way,
digging the black rock out of West Virginia hills.
Even cleaned stables from time to time—
some said He felt home there, being He was Mary’s Baby Child born in a stall.
Right good with animals too, God’s own creatures He called them.
Able to gentle a horse nobody else could.
When Jesus came east out of Texas, He met up with a river.
Went and got Hisself baptized in that great Euphrates of a river;
yes, baptized down yonder in the Old Muddy Mississippi
near Jericho where the seven walls fell,
baptized by His own sweet cousin John,
you know the Baptist who preached
John three sixteen once saved always saved amen.
Straightaway a Dove
whiter than the snow white robes of the saints washed in the Blood,
that Holy Ghost Dove rose,
like Excalibur He rose out of the waters and into the heavens
calling out in dove-talk words only a prophet would know.
When Jesus came east out of Texas, He shook Hisself free,
shook off that river, pulled on His sneakers.
Spent a time in the Delta and ran up against Doctor Hoodoo at the Crossroads,
gave old Scratch such a whacking
right then and there Beelzebub invented the Blues.
Then it was on down to New Orleans for Jesus,
that Sodom and Gomorrah town
where sinners cut their eye teeth on the Seven Deadlies.
Amongst the smells of remoulade and gumbo drifting through the Vieux Carré,
Jesus changed the me-got-troubles-and-the-troubles-me-got-cut-down-deep-to-the-bone
Beelzebub Blues into Jazz when Jesus came east out of Texas.
When Jesus came east out of Texas, He hopped the night train to Memphis.
Hoboed Hisself up to Graceland and the Land of Elvis,
that motherlode of Rock and Roll born wearing Blue Suede Shoes
cradled alongside the Mother of Rivers,
where Mary Mag in a room at the Heartbreak Hotel called out to her lover, “Love me tender,”
where Simon Peter, like his daddy and his granddaddy before, worked the docks, loading and unloading,
where Beale Street opened its arms wide, welcoming a Man named Jesus,
for Jesus loved sinners, and the sinners loved Jesus.
When Jesus came east out of Texas, He told stories,
and He told them ‘bout prodigals and rejects,
‘bout a beggar name of Lazarus and a mustard seed
with faith ‘nough to move a mountain cross the State of Georgia.
But the sinners had heard them all before
from the holy ghost healers and the Bible thumpers and the tent preachers,
from the theologians and the priests and the social gospelleers,
from the Billy Sundays and the Bishop Sheens and the Billy Grahams
they had heard the stories and were none too partial to hearing them again
till they heard the “fear not” in the voice of Jesus who came east out of Texas
and the Beloved He took to calling them like they’s somebody.
When Jesus came east out of Texas, he moved from town to town
making His way through places with names like Shiloh and Rose of Sharon and New Hope,
just dots on a map for some but home for others.
Wherever He went walking, a rag-tag band followed after,
souls in need of learning how to swim, souls drowning in a sea of storms,
souls like Mary Mag come begging for love,
a woman the gossips dubbed Slut from the shantyside of town.
She Sunday-dressed and fancied herself up and dropped down on her knees
in the grass, in the dirt to beg the feet of Jesus for forgiveness.
He gave her what she wanted much;
He loved her tenderly with words that forgave her many sins.
And them sinning folk, my how they loved Jesus.
Would have followed Him anywhere the sun rises and sets.
But at the edge of the crowd stood a preacher name of Caiaphas.
He heard all the Truth that Jesus spoke and he didn’t listen ‘cause he was so full of hisself.
He turned and walked away from Jesus with a “how dare he” on his lips.
When Jesus came east out of Texas, He preached a sermon,
preached it on the banks of the Chattahoochee.
Said a lot of strange things, things like “Blessed”
and “Forgive” and “Turn the other cheek” and “Love your neighbor.”
Told one fellow, “Take up your street and walk.”
That man, who couldn’t walk, did just that, stood hisself up
and walked, walked away with no limp at all.
Another time He said, “If you begat the sword, the sword will begat you.”
Called God, you know the Almighty Jehovah, He named Him Father.
Said, “God is Love.” Of all things.
“How ‘bout that,” said the sinners who had always thought
God was Judge and Jury, and Sheriff too.
When Jesus came east out of Texas, some of the upstanding,
well they had themselves a meeting,
an Upstanding Citizens Committee Meeting.
Seems they didn’t like the rumors coming their way ‘bout this Man Jesus
Like He could walk on water, heal the sick, cast out demons.
“Everybody knows there ain’t no such thing as demons,” they said.
“So how can He cast out a thing that ain’t?”
There was even talk that Jesus raised a dead man right out of his sleep.
“Downright blasphemous was what that was,”
the citizens said. “Let the dead lie in peace.”
From the mouth of Preacher Caiaphas, they heard
the words they felt deep down in their hard-hearted hearts, they heard,
“We can’t allow any more of His Good News stuff being spread around.
Why, what will happen to law and order, to hellfire and brimstone, if the sinners believe?”
When Jesus came east out of Texas, the citizens
dressed themselves up in hoods and in robes like it was Halloween and went out looking.
When they found Jesus, they watched and they watched ‘cause watching was what they did
till one night they found Him alone down by a creek a-praying.
Arrested him on a trumped-up charge. “Baptisin’ without a license,” the hypocrites called it.
Had themselves a trial. But it was no real trial, just a sham of a justice.
“So you think you’re a Jesus?” Preacher Caiaphas said, his spite spitting out the words of Satan
who’d known he’d have his revenge for the whacking he’d taken from the hand of Jesus.
“You ain’t nothing of a Jesus. Our Jesus
is a blue-eyed, blonde-haired, fair-skinned Jesus, and you ain’t him.”
When Jesus came east out of Texas, the whip came down,
it came down hard on Jesus,
and the whip came down hard some more
till it had come down hard on His back some thirty-nine times.
“Let’s hang the nigger,” one of the hoods shouted out.
The citizens carved King of the Niggers into His face,
into the face of Jesus and they lynched Him from a tree.
Strung up in space He swung halfway ‘tween earth and heaven
till He died that dark and moonless night.
Then the hypocrites one by one slunk away, saying,
“Well, that’s the last we’ll hear of that nigger.”
Later, later in the dark, later in the night, His friends came to the tree,
that lonesome tree where the Good Man hung—
Mother Mary, Mary Mag, Simon Peter, Little John, they came
and pulled His body down, bruised and scarred.
They laid their broken Jesus into a grave by the river He’d loved.
Out of the darkness came a great shout of light when
Jesus who came east out of Texas stepped out of the ground,
His body now whole and new, and the world could not hold Him,
He ascended into eternity like He’d said He would,
promising, “Mi amigos, viyo con Dios, and remember
I shall see you again.
So look east, my friends. Yes, look east and perhaps,