Pine Tree with Jesus Crown of Thorns
by Ralph Monday

Raised Southern Baptist I am not particularly
of a religious nature. At eight or nine my mother,
pious, penitent, was as horrified as Frankenstein’s
monster when I came home at Easter from Sunday school
and announced it doesn’t make any sense.
What doesn’t? mom asked
Dead men don’t get up and walk away was the Age of
Reason response.

Yet today, swaying on a ridge top, a pine tree black
as a beetle against December clouds, two arms hang
down like baptismal palms. There is a head perched
like a scarecrow—ringing it a crown of thorns, tree
crucified between two oaks.

I can only marvel that this apparition appears two
days before Christmas, harbinger of sol invictus.

Is it only the patriarchal that experience
pareidolia? What is it, Augustine, Luther, Calvin
sprouting forth a planted seed growing in the
Vatican’s spiritus mundi?

Culture cannot be escaped, for in rejecting, we
project full power like Apollo 11 blasting for the moon.
Calvin, especially, rides that dark Puritan plume,
commander in the command seat, he planes the tree
smooth for the nails in our hands.

The tree’s roots drink from the river Styx, its crown
that of heaven. It remains permanently in the unconscious
realm, ogres, trolls, shadows, playing in its limbs,
an eternal Calvary song piped forth from branches
like a conductor keeping time.

I eat its body, drink its sap, know that its sermon
is a text read from pages resurrected from its
sacrificed wood. This image, this vision, like all
others, an imagined past tree mated to the real
on a ridge, processed electrical signals, searing
only the mind of the living.

Copyright 2023 by Red River Review. First Rights Reserved. All other rights revert to the authors.
No work may be reproduced or republished without the express written consent of the author.