31 Psaltery & Lyre: Michael Hicks, “Jesus Is Coming Back”


Jesus Is Coming Back

            to before we beat his face into gold leaf
                        or spilled his body onto canvas or polished

his eyes into buttons and trimmed his robe
            to wrap the open chalice of his veins,
                        coming back to before we carved his tongue

into sermons or stuffed his cheeks with choirs
            or sanded his belly and wove his hair into tapestries
                        that comb our vision into even rows,

coming carrying his body back to before we scrubbed it
            with onion skin or lowered it into white shirts,
                        the pallor of linen dried and folded into leaflets

passed out by ushers in wool suits.
            He is walking home from the church in our skulls
                        knocking the halo from his head and cutting the

jewelry from his neck and smiling that old carpenter’s
            smile again, a palm date mashed in his teeth, straw
                        in his hair, brine splattered on his frayed cuffs.

He is coming to juggle the stars back into place
            and drum our hearts back to their proper dance,
                        but coming back mostly to fish, the way we all do,

for praise and for blame, coming back
            to cast his lures into our blood and wait the long
                        wait of fishermen.




Composer, performer, scholar, and poet Michael Hicks received a DMA from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1984 and has been teaching at BYU since 1985. He is the author of four books—Mormonism and Music: A History (1989), Sixties Rock: Garage, Psychedelic, and Other Satisfactions (1999), Henry Cowell, Bohemian (2002), and The Street-Legal Version of Mormon’s Book (2012); the first three of these were published by University of Illinois Press, which in 2012 published his book co-authored with Christian Asplund, entitled Christian Wolff.  His dozens of historical and analytical articles have appeared in books such as the Encyclopedia of Popular Music of the World and the forthcoming Oxford Handbook to Mormonism as well as journals that include American Music, Journal of Aesthetic Education, Journal of the American Musicological Society, Musical Quarterly, and Perspectives of New Music. He has been a guest lecturer at Stanford and the University of California at Berkeley and has read papers at various national conferences (including UCLA’s multidisciplinary Conference on American Studies Connecting with Religion, 1991) and national meetings of the Society for American Music and the American Musicological Society.

He has twice won the ASCAP-Deems Taylor Award (1994 and 2003) for his writing about music and a third time as editor of the journal American Music, a post he held from 2007-2010. His poetry, meanwhile, has been published in Dialogue, BYU Studies, Literature and Belief, Sunstone, and in the anthologies Cadence of Hooves (2008), New Poets of the American West (2010), and Fire in the Pasture (2011).


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