Psalm 23
a song of ancient assurance

The shepherd psalm
If you’ve read in Old Testament
Then you, I think, know this

If your holy scripture is not
Divided so or does not
Contain this at all, I will tell
You this numbered psalm
Is well-known in metaphor
Of shepherding

(Genders of the shepherds?
They have been both when
Keeping sheep and will
Go on this way)

There is a rod and staff
Tools of the shepherd’s will
They don’t sound so good
To modern me, but I

Understand these somehow
Mean comfort and provide
There are still waters, too
These are clean, and we are
Led beside maybe because
We are so tired by then
That breezes off the water
Soothe us all

We are anointed—rite
Religiously special
And there is a feast

Our enemies are at table
But not served—Awkward?
Maybe, though I think it’s
An unworldly sign of triumph

Earned somehow, not
Simply out of injustice
We might have endured
But because, at last, victims
Are honor-placed

There are more promises
Finally, a place in heaven,
There to dwell with God

This song sings an invitation
Anyone might answer, go
Have coolness in the water,

Oil and banquet celebration,
Finally our home within

All in accepting
Shepherd’s care

Heaven once the peril’s
Done when, as tired
And need-starved beats,
We are carried home