What Would Jesus Teach?
by Meryl Stratford

When Jesus arrives at Colbert Elementary,
the most recent in a long line of substitute teachers,
no one recognizes Him despite the long hair,
Birkenstock sandals, and WWJD tee-shirt.
Though He doesn’t look it, He’s been teaching
for two thousand years. He speaks Aramaic
and everyone understands. Jesus is here undercover
so He avoids flashy miracles like multiplying
fish-sticks in the cafeteria. When no one is looking
He revives the goldfish floating belly-up
in the aquarium. Jesus puzzles over the pledge
to the flag, one nation under God, as if God
were something to be under, an invisible
plastic dome, instead of something to be
inside of, a vast, mysterious universe.
He studies the map on the classroom wall
and erases all the national borders, all the words
for cities and mountains and lakes, so the world
looks like it did before Adam got busy naming things,
and now a child can see how all the oceans are
one ocean and all the continents are pieces
of a gigantic jig-saw puzzle. Jesus sings
about the Big Bang and the wonders
of evolution. In the beginning, He says, is the Word,
and sometimes the word is popcorn, sometimes
it’s sneeze or lullaby. Jesus finds the lever,
the button, the hidden switch inside each child,
turns their curiosity on, waits for them to start
asking questions. When the fire alarm sounds
and everyone tumbles outdoors, He rearranges
the clouds like fluffy cartoons on the blue screen
of the sky. Although He performs with ease
the minor miracle of keeping a class of five-year-olds
clean, quiet, and busy, He prefers the happier magic
of finger-paint, rhythm band, and an afternoon nap.
The end of the school day finds Him in kindergarten,
cross-legged on a carpet, reading
Harold and the Purple Crayon,
Goodnight Moon.