A Good Friday Reflection on Texas Hold'Em as Lenten Practice

for a Mennonite Golden Boy

A poem in response to Ann of Goshen, years later.

Hear the instruction of your mother: hate everything that is loved
by the world and your sensuality.
-- Maeyken Wens, Mennonite martyr, in her last letter to her son before being
burned at the stake in Antwerp on October 6, 1573.

Ann of Goshen, you warned me about the flames, internalized.
You saw I was one of Those Who Would Save the World.
“Tim,” you said, “you worry about losing it,
but you don't realize you will spend your whole life trying to shake it.”

For Dale, Bob and Gene, it was the mushroom cloud and Vietnam.
For Rachel and me, it was that damn racist capitalist industrial climate changing patriarchal domination system.
She was my first crush.
She went before me.
Down to Georgia.

Georgia of sun-drenched November
pilgrimages at the SOA gates,
of Eucharist re-membering those seven
Jesuit priests, their housekeeper and her daughter
martyred in El Salvadorian dirt,
face down in the back garden,
the "refuge of subversives."
I swallowed bread and wine
and found my voice against
the imperial behemoth that swallowed them.

Georgia, of the Open Door,
Ed and Murphy’s spartan halls,
of Spelman and Morehouse
who fought the white beast unafraid.
Rachel walked with them:
through Marta trains, late at night,
rails singing “Swing low,” she carried a sling
in one hand and the gods on her other.

Georgia, where Jubilee welcomed
the refugee, the orphan and me.
There I considered all the facts
beside Blake’s garden and
Clarence’s cotton patch, pure as Psyche
before she drank ambrosia.
Beside the graves of death-row prisoners killed by leviathan
I rose above the glowing pines with her
on fire-fueled wings of wax,
oblivious to her lover Cupid.
He sat beneath the cabins,
bow discarded,
torching butterflies
and watching me.

And so it was that I went home and
wandered the sidewalks of Goshen barefoot
in February, my soles pounding
out rhythms no one else could hear,
dancing on the edges
of intelligibility, worrying my own
furry magical rows, an earnest urgency
riding me past sleep,
past food,
past friends.
Like Hut and Knipperdolling,
late of St. Lambert’s gable cage,
I saw the world was burning
while sensual papists played poker,
pipes lit by Mr. Beelzebub

Oblivious to the heat
on my wings, I saw shining,
glistening strands between
All at Once!
But they were not mine to weave
and I was taken by flame.
Insane to think of
me curled up in the locked ward
in my late teens: scared, angry,
clinging to the intensity,
clinging to the enchantment,

surrounded by
the chattering of a dozen
broken minds whispering:
“The world is burning and you must save it.”


I left Rachel behind me in the meadows outside Goshen
as the last light glistened through maples.

I have made my way in the world,
carrying the flame with me:
past Tom’s bullet-ridden body
in an abandoned lot outside Baghdad,
Michelle pleading with the soldiers
to let her accompany his body.

I have made my way in the world,
through white hot dragon fire
turned outside in: charring Peacemakers
taut and frayed; pugnacious no more.
Stakes no longer needed,
we heap coals on our own heads.

I have made my way in the world,
meandering upwards on paths rarely taken
through shafts of light and black oak,
making peace with the pills:
Thorzine, Haldol and now Quetiapine,
building the ziggurats of AstraZeneca
one prescription at a time.


Which is how I find myself,
these many years later,
still clinging to the steps
of that mountainish tower,
my view skewed from zeal gone pungent;
too many long nights
in the high, shrill saddle
with too little grace.

Which is why it’s time to kill
my radical-Mennonite-activist-martyr angel--
those coy, charming wings poking out
from behind that hand woven vegan leather plain coat.
But I can’t.

                                                                              ¡Ya Basta!

I’m laying down
my prophets,
my stake on the table.

Which is how
I find myself at this unrighteous table for Lent
with eight men, poker-faced as puppies:
not Mennonites, but not Papists either,
working out my redemption with fear and trembling
with a $20 stake and a glass of water on the kitchen table
here, tonight, beside Sisar Creek and below the Topa Topas.

About the Author

Tim Nafziger

Tim Nafziger has been a reservist with Christian Peacemaker Teams since 2003, CPT outreach coordinator from 2008-12, and interim assistant director from 2012-14. Tim lives with his wife Charletta in California in the Ventura River watershed between the Topa Topa and Santa Ynez mountains. He works with Carnival de Resistance <http://carnivalderesistance.com> and is a founding partner in Congruity Works <http://congruity.works>, a web development firm. Tim writes regularly for The Mennonite and is in the midst of rediscovering his passion beyond prose. He thrives on cross-pollination.