Chapter One From the Childhood of Jesus One Saturday morning he went to the river to play. He modeled twelve sparrows out of the river clay And scooped a clear pond, with a dam of twigs and mud. Around the pond he set the birds he had made, Evenly as the hours. Jesus was five. He smiled, As a child would who had made a little world Of clear still water and clay beside a river. But a certain Jew came by, a friend of his father, And he scolded the child and ran at once to Joseph, Saying, "Come see how your child has profaned the Sabbath, Making images at the river on the Day of Rest." So Joseph came to the place and took his wrist And told him, "Child, you have offended the Word." Then Jesus freed the hand that Joseph held And clapped his hands and shouted to the birds To go away. They raised their beaks at his words And breathed and stirred their feathers and flew away. The people were frightened. Meanwhile, another boy, The son of Annas the scribe, had idly taken A branch of driftwood and leaning against it had broken The dam and muddied the little pond and scattered The twigs and stones. Then Jesus was angry and shouted, "Unrighteous, impious, ignorant, what did the water Do to harm you? Now you are going to wither The way a tree does, you shall bear no fruit And no leaves, you shall wither down to the root." At once, the boy was all withered. His parents moaned, The Jews gasped, Jesus began to leave, then turned And prophesied, his child's face wet with tears: "Twelve times twelve times twelve thousands of years Before these heavens and this earth were made, The Creator set a jewel in the throne of God With Hell on the left and Heaven to the right, The Sanctuary in front, and behind, an endless night Endlessly fleeing a Torah written in flame. And on that jewel in the throne, God wrote my name." Then Jesus left and went into Joseph's house. The family of the withered one also left the place, Carrying him home. The Sabbath was nearly over. By dusk, the Jews were all gone from the river. Small creatures came from the undergrowth to drink And foraged in the shadows along the bank. Alone in his cot in Joseph's house, the Son Of Man was crying himself to sleep. The moon Rose higher, the Jews put out their lights and slept, And all was calm and as it had been, except In the agitated household of the scribe Annas, And high in the dark, where unknown even to Jesus The twelve new sparrows flew aimlessly through the night, Not blinking or resting, as if never to alight. (Continues...) Excerpted from The Want Bone by Robert Pinsky Copyright © 2003 by Robert Pinsky Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.