Mark Trechock writes from the Great Plains, southwestern North Dakota. He published his first poem in 1974 and took a 20-year hiatus from publishing, starting in 1995. He retired from a career in church and community organizing work and is writing again. Recent publications include Jonah Magazine, Southern Pacific Review, Triggerfish, the Ekphrastic Review, Radius, Kudzu House, Shark Reef, High Desert Journal, Passager, Kestrel, Snowy Egret and Weber: The Contemporary West.
A History of Christianity
I’m reading history on the beach
in North Carolina, across from the doomed
settlement on Roanoke Island, hearing
the breakers bear down on the New World
in a tidal baptism, the seagulls shrieking
like a forte organ ascended to its highest
notes to accompany a hymn maniacal
and insistent in its tone.
The hard-cover textbook I’m reading,
now swelling with fine beach sand,
is required for the course I must teach,
“A History of Christianity.” It careens
through the twenty centuries of catacombs,
emperors, monasteries, burnings at the stake,
a profusion of reformers always trying to pry
the boards off last year’s theoretical box
and replace it with more durable materials.
I’ve come to the early twelfth century
when Bernard of Clairvaux urged
a crusade—confession for the infidels,
the sword for those who refused, the retaking
of the Biblical lands. The Christians failed,
the main outcome being the increase
of widows and orphans in Europe.
Bombarded with all the names of princes
and kings and bishops and Saracen lords,
my mind wandered toward the plastic ducks
that spilled from a Chinese container ship
back in the 1990’s and bob along still
throughout the seven seas, bearing unarmed,
or so it seems, their tribute to the triumph
of plastic over the oceans, the coral reefs,
the estuaries, fish, crustaceans, ocean-going
birds—all subjugated to the Donald Duck
smile, so enigmatic, so passively cruel.