‘Looking for Judas’ is about the expansion of the empire with the help of religion. In this poem, Adrian C. Louis explores how Christianity helped white men to colonize the hearts of Native Americans. This piece shows the fusion of indigenous beliefs with that of the Christian religion. The main idea of the poem centers on the idea of “blood.” On the one hand, it hints at Christ’s blood, and on the other hand, it implies the atrocities on the Native Indian tribes.
Explore Looking for Judas
Adrian C. Louis’ poem ‘Looking for Judas’ centers on a speaker who talks about how “they” (white men) acted like Judas in order to colonize the Native American people.
This poem begins with the imagery of blood. The speaker describes how he hanged the “five-point mule deer” in an old barn. Its blood resembled that of Christ. The same innocence can be seen in their eyes. It reminds the speaker of the history of Native Americans. Being an indigenous representative, he describes how the white men used religion to unite and colonize the natives without spilling more blood.
You can read the full poem here.
Weathered gray, the wooden walls
be stolen from the dry hills of Jerusalem.
‘Looking for Judas’ contains an interesting title. It hints at the tale of mischief and betrayal. Judas, one of the closest friends of Jesus Christ, betrayed him and offered his friend to the Roman soldiers. Then they stripped Christ off his robes and crucified him on the cross.
In this poem, the speaker is looking for the Judas of the modern age. The one who betrayed the Native Americans and made them forget their own religion and culture. In the beginning, the speaker shockingly describes what he has done.
He has hunted a “five-point mule deer” resembling crucified Christ and hanged it in an old barn. By using vivid imagery, Louis describes how the wooden walls of the blood-stained gray walls sparkled and brightened with the blood of the deer. Besides, the bloodstained walls glistened in the moonlight.
The speaker has gutted and skinned the creature before hanging it. Now, in its “eternal nakedness” (again, an allusion to Christ on the cross), one could see a glint in its eyes. According to the speaker, the spark in its eyes is similar to that of Christ. It could be stolen from the “dry hills of Jerusalem,” where Christ died.
They say before the white man
Or something like that.
In the next lines of ‘Looking for Judas,’ the speaker addresses the Native Americans as “they,” and the “white man” is a reference to the European settlers. The settlers brought their religion and beliefs with them. They forcefully imposed it on the natives for the sake of expanding their empire. Hence, the speaker remarks that before they brought Jesus, the native men had honor.
The white men went on to manipulate them by saying that they killed others in the name of purging the sins of humankind. They used religion as a means of colonizing and manipulating the native people. When they brutally killed them, they told them their spirits would stay forever. The dead would live in their flesh.
In this way, they used “bows of ash,” symbolizing religion, instead of rifles and spotlights in order to get their job done. The usage of the term “holy blood” is another jocular hint at the real motive of the white men. Louis tries to point out how they attached the divine with gory and chastity with lust. He adds that there might have happened something similar to that.
‘Looking for Judas’ is a free-verse lyric poem. Louis writes this poem from the perspective of a first-person speaker, using the pronoun “I” and “we.” This piece does not have a regular rhyme or meter. It consists of a total of 15 lines. There is no regularity of line length. Some lines are shorter than the neighboring ones. Besides, the poet uses end-stopped lines in order to conclude the sense of a particular section. He uses internal rhymings within the lines as well.
Louis makes use of the following literary devices in ‘Looking for Judas.’
- Enjambment: This device is used to connect the lines internally. It makes a reader go through consecutive lines in order to understand the idea. For instance, it occurs in the first four lines.
- Allusion: There is an allusion to the crucifixion of Christ and his holy “blood.”
- Imagery: Louis makes use of visual imagery of blood in order to draw attention to the central idea of the poem.
- Repetition: The poet uses the repetition of specific terms such as “blood,” “they,” and “we” for the sake of emphasis.
Adrian C. Louis’ poem ‘Looking for Judas’ presents a speaker who talks about killing a mule deer and hanging it in an old burn. In its blood-stained walls, he discovered the creature has a similar glint in its eyes as Christ. This scene reminds him of the way white men used religion in order to manipulate Native Americans.
It is a free-verse lyric poem that consists of a total of 15 lines. The lines are grouped into a single stanza. There is no set rhyme scheme or metrical pattern in the text. It is told from the perspective of a first-person narrator.
This piece showcases a number of themes that include religion, blood, belief, culture, and death. The main idea of the poem revolves around how European settlers brought their religion in order to colonize the Native Americans.
The central image of this piece is “blood.” Louis explores and exploits this image from different angles. Firstly, he shows it in its true sense. Then he associates the blood of living beings to that of Christ. Lastly, this image is used to hint at the killing of indigenous people at the hands of white men.
Readers who liked reading Adrian C. Louis’ poem ‘Looking for Judas’ may also consider reading the following poems.
- ‘Crow Testament’ — This poem is about the hardships of Native Americans.
- ‘Meeting the British’ — This piece records a Native American’s feelings about French and British settlers.
- ‘There was an Indian’ — In this poem, readers can find the reaction of Native Americans on the arrival of Christopher Columbus.
You can also explore these touching poems about Jesus Christ.