The Desert

He stood, sweating, gazing over the vastness
of what looked like nothingness; hot, glaring,
monochromatic landscape, broken only by an
occasional dune. His eyes batted against the
stinging bits of sand encircling his head as He
tried to catch His breath. He was, after all, Jesus
in a mortal body.

He was hungry. He had not eaten for the past
forty days. He caught sight of an approaching
figure surrounded by piercing light. The desert
floor began to vibrate. The figure was enormous
in size, and seemed to exude tremendous power.

As if reading His mind, the figure said, “Tell
these stones to become bread.” In response,
Jesus took a confident breath and said, “It is written:
‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every
word that comes from the mouth of God.'”
Although Jesus stood his ground, the figure reached
toward Him and whisked Him away.

Now, Jesus and the figure were at the Holy City,
standing on a steeple. The figure said, “If you
are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is
written, ‘He will command his angels concerning
you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that
you will not strike your foot against a stone.'”

Jesus answered,”It is also written: ‘Do not put
the Lord your God to the test.'” The figure was
persistent in his provocation, reaching toward Jesus
again, spiriting Him away to a very high mountain,
where he showed Him all the kingdoms of the world
in all their splendor and beauty and majesty.

“All this I will give you,” said the figure,
“If you will bow down and worship me.”
“Away from me,” Jesus said, “For it is written:
‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only.'”
Jesus could not be tempted or drawn away by the
figure, nor did He lose His faith in God, as a result
of his encounter with the devil in the desert.

©2016 Steven Barto

Imperfect

I sat, submissively. You stood, towering.
You, the PhD. Me the struggling artist.
My thumbnail kept picking at the edge
of the nail on my index finger.
My writing hand index finger. Odd.
You told me my poem was “okay,”
but it was not perfect.
So what, then, it was imperfect?
Faulty? Flawed? Defective? Unsound?
Wait, this was a “free verse” assignment.
It was meant to not have a regular meter.
It was supposed to simply “be.”
Perhaps my poem had “imperfect vision.”
Imperfectus: incomplete.
So you’re saying it was “missing something.”
Perhaps you don’t like unrestrained boundaries.
Your failure to appreciate poetry that is
absent fixed metrical pattern does not mean
my work has failed as poetry.
Non-metrical, non-rhyming lines often
closely follow the natural rhythms of speech.
Perhaps this is the very purpose of
an imperfect poem.

©2016 by Steven Barto

Face

I thought I could hide my face; that
outward declaration of what I am thinking,
or who I truly am inside. I stand at the bathroom mirror,
not thrilled to catch my eye.
See those two vertical lines between my eyes?
This is an indicator of just how hard I am on myself.
I have a difficult time believing I’ve done any good
at any time since the moment I first drew breath.
Then I notice a faint third line right down the middle of my nose.
This is the supposed marker of a perfectionist.
As I stare at my face, I notice two deep lines below my nose and
on either side of my mouth; a telling giveaway of prolonged sadness,
a companion of mine for longer than I can remember;
one of interminable duration.
My doctor said horrible, puffy eyes could be evidence of weak kidneys.
Most inspiring to me, however, are the nasolabial folds that extend
from the sides of my nose down to the corners of my mouth;
these are an indication that I am on the right path,
living an authentic life. They prove I’m heading in the right direction,
fulfilling my purpose in the world, moving ever closer to being the
man God chose me to be the moment I was born.

©2016 Steven Barto

Logan’s Outlook

He towers tall over his tiny kitten, sitting in his power chair,
Simply smiling, sentient, all but savvy,
Knowing how happy and blessed is he;
Bound to his chair, yet free; intelligent enough to win a spelling bee.

Packed to the top of his brain with stats,
Possessing the soul of a global travel brat;
He sails around the world without leaving his home,
Able to rant and roam.

Reading the riot act to his opponent in
Call of Duty: Black Ops, not focusing on what he can’t do;
Applying aptitude and attitude to a challenging life of
Adversity and affliction, admonishing God just won’t do.

Admiring the capable child or athlete with an appreciation
For the frolic and revelry they show and tell,
Thrilled with the entertainment they present,
And the wonderful competition they wage.

Logan’s outlook obviously embodies an ostensible
Conclusion that, regardless of what he bears,
He will always be thrilled with being alive,
Content to learn and thrive.

©2016 Steven Barto

The above poem is an homage to my nephew, Logan, who was stricken with spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) in the first few months of his life. SMA is a type of muscular dystrophy. He interacts with the world from atop his power chair. Very smart and observant. Loves sports, especially football. Favorite team: The Steelers. I truly love and admire Logan and wanted to write something that would at least hint at the great young man he is despite his situation.