Mario, Luigi, and Jesus of Nazareth
After falling into a pit of red, leaping lava
while playing the New Super Mario Bros
on the Wii with my son, my mind wanders
as I wait my turn, to the endgame (E for everyone)
of Christ’s life, his crucifixion, and reappearance
after death. In the game’s teaser, he sits eating meat
in the house of Simon the Sick when a woman
breaks an alabaster box of spikenard and pours it
over his head. Press start, and a man bearing water
guides twelve players through the city’s maze
to an upper room where they break bread.
The hand of the betrayer—is it Mii?—is on the table.
Iscariot’s quest is a matter of hours: he eats Christ,
has his feet washed by him, sells him for silver,
arrests him with a kiss, repents, casts down
the coins in the castle, and nooses his own neck.
After sops and a hymn, taking two swords,
the characters follow a smiling star across Kedron Creek
to Olive Mountain’s garden. He asks a trio
to keep watch—he knows what is coming—
while he withdraws about a stone’s cast to pray,
but their lives are low and they can’t stay awake,
their eyes heavy and bellies full. Some evil
and enormous weight fills his soul, and Christ
falls. His sweat is as it were great drops of blood.
The drowsy sons of Zebedee half-dream a demon
is approaching from the depths of Gethsemane
when Christ returns with his robe sopping red. Sleep on,
he says. Then torches, lanterns, weapons, and
Iscariot again: Whomsoever I shall kiss, is he;
hold him fast. Hold him fast. Just as soon
as Malchus’ ear is sliced off, it’s on again, repaired
by the deceiver, yet all press A to continue
with the game. Next is the level of judges and trials.
So many accusations. Are you the Christ?
Are you the Son of God? His reply: Thou hast said.
In other words, Word or Sing it, sister or Here we go!
Mostly, he holds his peace. Holds his peace. So,
ye have heard his blasphemy. What think ye?
Wii think to spit in his face, blindfold him,
slap him, and tease: Prophesy, who smote thee?
Simon, off-screen, watches from the servants’ fire,
his voiceover obvious, bewraying. The rooster’s
digitized cry sounds like a grown man weeping.
Pilate’s wife warns him: Have nothing
to do with that just man, for I suffer
in my dreams because of him. But what is truth?
To Barabbas, a toadstool and an extra life.
Pilate washes, the mob sings: His blood
be on us, and on our children. His blood be on us,
and on our children. Knighted by a whip
laced with fragments of glass and bone, his crown
bejeweled with rubied blood, his robe purpled,
a limp reed in his right hand: THIS IS THE KING
OF THE CASTLE. The father of Alex and Rufus
help carry his beam. Women follow him
as he moves (M for mature) skull-ward. Gaming
all night, it is the third hour (9 a.m.) when the pitch
of the hammer rings through flesh. The sun
has risen. If thou be of God, come down
from the cross. The rest of the day is darkness, but he
forgives and gives up the ghost before the thieves’ legs
are broken to speed their deaths. The quaking that follows
is enough for one bright helmet to declare: Truly,
this was the Son of God. He with the most coins
removes the nails or removes the hands. Life
is a loss that makes a body heavier, but Nic and Joe
manage to get him down, enmyrrhed, aloed, and into
the fresh-cut vault before the game’s hourglass
flips to Sabbath mode. For two nights, tomb is temple.
By sunrise, women with spices come and find it
open, already cleansed. In the garden of pipes,
where the Plumber Himself appears at last, it is first
to his Peach, his question like a kiss: Why weep?
When the eleven see him with their own eyes,
his word is: Peace. But they are terrified. He earns
a honeycomb and a broiled fish. Graves open,
and vintage bodies which slept arise and walk
into the holy city. Hold him fast. He is about
to be taken up, a cloud receiving him out of sight.
Why stand ye gazing into heaven? Dad? Dad,
it’s your turn. I come quickly. It’s your turn, Dad.
Even so, on the flatscreen Luigi has come back
to life! I rub my eyes in disbelief. I thumb the cross
on my white wand, warp into the underworld,
attempt another flying leap across a pit of fire.
Jim Richards’ words have been nominated for Best New Poets, two Pushcart Prizes, and have appeared in The Atlantic, Poetry Northwest, Copper Nickel, Hotel Amerika, Sugar House Review, Prairie Schooner, Juked, and others. He lives in eastern Idaho’s Snake River valley and has received a fellowship from the Idaho Commission on the Arts.
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Photo Credit: “Mario vs. Super Luigi (316/365)” by JD Hancock, CC BY 2.0, via Flickr.com.