“Sonnet 98 (Barabbas)” by Day Williams

Sonnet 98 (Barabbas)

I can’t believe they set me free. That man,

So peaceful, self-assured, prepared to die–

Even Pontius Pilate, who’s no fan

Of Jews, said he had done no wrong. I’ll fly

Down this road fast as this gray donkey can

Trot, far from crosses silhouetted high

On Calvary, the symbols of the plans

By Rome to rule by fear. I want to cry

When my own countrymen, my fellow Jews,

Meekly obey the goons and clowns from Rome

Who wield the swords and shields. I have a chance

Again to stir rebellion, as I choose.

How foolish was that Jesus to come home,

Claiming he was a prophet. Such romance!

~Day Williams



1 God said to Moses and to Aaron: 2 “Law

Requires, as God commanded: Go and tell

The Israelites to bring you a red heifer

Without a defect or a blemish and

That’s never been beneath a yoke. 3 Give it

To Eleazar, priest; it is to be

Taken outside the camp and slaughtered in

His presence. 4 Eleazar, priest, is then

To take some of its blood upon his finger

And seven times he is to sprinkle it

Before the Meeting Tent, 5 and while he watches,

The heifer shall be burned−its hide, flesh, blood

And waste. 6 The priest shall take some cedar wood,

Hyssop and scarlet wool and throw them on

The burning heifer. 7 After that, the priest

Must wash his clothes and bathe himself with water.

            He may then come in camp, but he will be

Ceremonially unclean till evening.

8 The man who burns it also has to wash

His clothes and bathe with water, and he too

Will be unclean till evening. 9 A clean man

Shall gather up the heifer’s ashes and

Put them in a ceremonially

Clean place outside the camp. The Israelite

Community shall keep them for their use

In cleansing water; it’s for cleansing sin.

10 The man who gathers up the heifer’s ashes

Must also wash his clothes, and he too will

Be unclean till the evening. This will be

A lasting ordinance for Israelites

And for the aliens who live with them.

11 Whoever touches anybody’s corpse

Will be unclean for seven days. 12 He has

To purify himself with water on

The third day and the seventh day; then he’ll

Be clean, but if he does not purify

Himself the third and seventh days, he won’t

            Be clean, 13 and one who touches any corpse

And fails to purify himself defiles

God’s tabernacle, and that person has

To be cut off from Israel. Because

The cleansing water has not been besprinkled

On him, he is unclean; his uncleanness

Remains on him. 14 This law applies whenever

A person dies within a tent: A man

Who goes into the tent and anyone

Who’s in it will be unclean seven days,

15 And each container open with no lid

Fastened onto it will be unclean, 16 and

Anyone in the open who shall touché

Someone who has been killed by sword or one

Who’s died a normal death, or anyone

Touching a human bone or grave, will be

Unclean for seven days. 17 To take care of

The unclean person, put some ashes from    

The offering from purification in

A jar and pour fresh water over them.

18 A man who is clean ceremonially

Shall take some hyssop, dip it in the water,

Sprinkle the tent and furnishings and people

Who were there. He must also sprinkle those

Who touched a human bone, a grave or one

Who has been killed or someone who has died

A normal death. 19 The man who’s clean shall sprinkle

The unclean person on days three and seven;

Day seven he’s to purify him, and

The person being cleansed must wash his clothes

And bathe with water, and that evening he’ll

Be clean. 20 But if an unclean person does

Not purify himself, he must be cut

From the community, because he has

Defiled the sanctuary of the LORD.

No cleansing water has been sprinkled on

Him, and he’s unclean, 21 and for them this is

A lasting ordinance. The man who sprinkles

The cleansing water has to wash his clothes

Also, and anyone who touches water

Of cleansing will be unclean till the evening.

22 Anything an unclean person touches

Becomes unclean, and anyone who brushes

It will be unclean ‘til the evening hush.”

February 24: “Try as You Might” by Day Williams

Try as You Might

Try as you might each day and night
You’ll never understand
The ways the King of Everything
Has brought about His plans

For you, His child, so mild and wild,
Perplexed, confused, adrift
Between the rocks that bang and block
Sea passages that lift

You higher yet, for He’s paid debts,
All debts that you’ve accrued–
Each rude caprice and fleshly spree–
How Christ has been abused.

He’ll comfort you when you are true
And love with no reserve;
You’ll be surprised He’s realized
That you have curved and swerved.

When darkness falls, the Spirit calls
With a gentle tug on heart:
Confess your crimes, give him your time . . .
Let Him make you His art.

~Day Williams