The following is in response to Robert Olen Butler’s “John the Baptist.”
For me, the tension didn’t really pick up until the middle when he says that he is talking about God; I guess I should have known, I mean it’s John the Baptist, of course he’d think about God in his last moments. I really like the ending because I wasn’t expecting it—that God is basically devouring him. I especially liked the line “and let me disappear into his very flesh”—simultaneously bizarre and eloquent.
On the second read-through I realized that John mentioned at the beginning of the short that God is eating—“and I rejoice that he enjoys his food.” This caught my attention because it brings it back around, the proverbial bookends that hold the piece together.
Butler uses a lot of creative language. Another line that stuck with me is “and the Jordan rushes about us the fish rubbing at my legs like hungry dogs and I am hungry too.” Not only does it sound interesting, it presents John the Baptist’s yearning to be with God; Butler definitely practices what he teaches about yearning, and by practice I mean he does it very well. I would also like to note that at first I found it odd that Butler doesn’t use any punctuation, but then I realized that this is supposed to be read quickly as the last ninety seconds of consciousness; periods and commas would just get in the way.