A Poem for Ferguson

Ferguson, Missouri captivated our attention this past month. We read articles, heard interviews and skimmed (or took part in) countless social media arguments. The shooting of Michael Brown and the subsequent events are inarguably tragic. These events brought difficult subjects, that are often ignored by Christians and non-Christians alike, into our thoughts and conversations. The topics involved are extremely complex and emotional—a toxic combination.

I'm not writing to clear up any issues or even to state my position on the situation. Instead, I am sharing a poem written by John Piper that communicates the complexity and emotionality of these horrific events.

Please listen to Dr. Piper read his poem. I'd suggest reading along with him. It's worth your time.

                The Awl
    Remembering Ferguson

I saw a good Samaritan
        Slow down and stop.
“This is that kind of road; and none
Of my sweet business here.” Atop

The hill just to the east he saw
        The restful spires
Of Jericho. “There is no law,”
He thought, “no statute that requires

My bother, let alone the chance
        Of injury.”
But conscience roer of se and put a glance
Of his own son for him to see

Before his father-eyes. He crossed
        The lonely road,
And whispered to himself, “The cost
Of this assault is not his load

Alone. Perhaps his father waits
        In Jericho.”
He knelt. “Such are the fates
Samaritans endure.” Then, “No!

This is a Jew!” And worse, much worse:
        The man was dead.
“Now what?” he thought. “It is a curse
To die and rot without a bed

Beneath the ground. And he is young.
        His father will
Be searching soon, perhaps.” He clung
To one small metal awl until,

In his dead hand, it pierced his skin,
        As if to say
To highway thieves: “Not this, not in
My life will this be snatched away.”


The good Samaritan put him
        Upon his beast,
And set his face to do the grim,
Bleak work of bearing the deceased

Up to Jerusalem to find
        A leather row
Where some young tanner had been signed
To take a load to Jericho.

He stopped at the first shop, “Can you
        Say if a man
Was sent with leather goods down through
The road to Jericho?” “I can.

But hardly yet a man! In age,
        Or worth, I think.
For all I know, his grief and rage
Drove him to steal the lot, and drink 

His sorry way to Gerasa.
        His father’s sick
With fear. There was a bruhaha
The night he left. He tried to stick

A man because his mother’s name
        Was smeared. He slashed
Him with a tanner’s awl. He came
By here to get his load, and lashed

It to his mule and disappeared.
        His mother died
Last year. The old man with the beard,
Down at the corner, right hand side,

That’s his dad.” “Thank you.” Hesitant,
        And burdened down
With death, he waited at the front,
Until the old man, with a frown,

Said, “What you got for sale there, sir?”
        “It’s not for sale,
Or trade, or deals. But if it were,
You’d pay me anything. This veil

Lies on the treasure of your life:
        Your son. And in
His hand, unstolen in the strife.
There is an awl thrust though his skin."

The old man lifted up the cloak,
        And put it back.
“I found him on the road.” “Your folk
Hate Jews, my friend. And there’s no lack


The rest of the text can be found here on DesiringGod.org.

©2014 Desiring God Foundation. Used by Permission.

PoetryTimothy Buck