John the Baptist

The following is in response to Robert Olen Butler’s “John the Baptist.”

“smelling of garlic he comes to me and he is lank with long hands and I rejoice that he enjoys his food”
~Excerpt from “John the Baptist” by Robert Olen Butler

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.


About evinhughes

I am a graduate of Georgia Southern University. I have a bachelors degree in Information Technology and a bachelors in Writing and Linguistics.
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