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Jesus of Kensington (1 bullet – 1 life)

June 7, 2006

Jesus of Kensington
(1 Bullet, 1 Life)People pass him every day
mistaking him for one of "them"
Nothing about his appearance
is particularly of note.
His hair, long and shaggy
hangs well past his shoulders
With no place to lay his head
the sleeplessness of 1,000 nights
shows in his eyes
The dirt of 1,000 days
spent on the streets
clings to his deeply tanned skin
A tattered t-shirt from a long-defunct band
bears the marks of life on the streets
Jeans, ragged and torn
hang from his frame like rags
But behind the weariness
blazes a fire of passionate zeal
Through the grime glows
a seemingly impossible radiance
Seated among the alcoholics and addicts
he is at home as he hears their tales
of tragedy and trouble
The "elite" of the community
look down on him with contemptuous pity
"From what heights he fell –
he had all a man could ever want."
Some said as they passed him by
"What a waste of talent and gifts."
others whispered among themselves

But his life is not a waste –
possessions to him mean nothing
For this reason he left it all
and descended to these depths
To take hold of even one
who sits next to him
in a drunken stupor
or drug-induced haze
To retrieve them from
this Hell on earth
and bring them to a better place
where addiction has no hold on them
where every need is met
every desire satisfied
Where life defeats death
and hope displaces despair

One day a dealer rolled onto the block.
had a beef with one of
his (former) customers
who was trying to get clean
"Where've you been, my man?" he asks
with his hand on his gun
"I don't want none of your junk"
the man boldly replied
The dealer draws his gun
"What do you mean 'junk,' man?"
with the gun leveled at his head
when the man with the tattered shirt
and torn jeans approaches
"STOP!" his says with a voice of authority
"Don't you dare take this man's life"
the strength of his words belied
his haggard look
"Who do you think you are, fool?
You may save this man, but you can't save the 'hood"
"1 bullet"
"1 bullet is all you've got in that gun"
"How'd you…?"
"I'll make you a deal"
You’ll make me a deal?”
That’s what I said – I know you’re not deaf.”
What’s this ‘deal’ you’ll make with me?”
1 bullet, 1 life.
What’s the catch?”
Anyone who asks, you release them
Only those who ask?”
Only when they ask
You got a deal
1 bullet, 1 life


He fell to the ground
blood pouring from the hole in his chest
The dealer wiped the gun
and dropped it to the ground
You heard the man, you wanted out
You’re free from my control.”
Police arrived on the scene
Paramedics, soon after
The white sheet was brought out
and covered the body
“Turf war between two dealers”
the official report read
but the men and women who
lived on those streets
knew what really happened
knew the price that had been paid

Buried in Potter’s Field
no stone to mark his empty grave
for he wasn’t dead
he returned to life
and calls to us today
to go back out
to the streets that he walked
and sit with those he loved
tell them of his sacrifice

1 bullet, 1 life
If they want freedom
all they have to do is ask
The addict, the dealer, the hooker, the thief
doesn’t matter where they’ve been
or what they’ve done
That bullet had their name
engraved on the cold steel
but the man in the tattered shirt
and ragged jeans
took the bullet instead.

by Mary Parks
(c) 2006

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