These eight poems are based on Scriptures associated with “the Seven Last Words of Jesus” – and yes, there are eight lessons. I read the Biblical texts as well as the poems in the video above.
First Reading: Luke 23:26-32
Good days, good days, he said,
but did they seem so green and good
to those who felt the yoke of Rome,
to those whose load was not relieved?
No doubt they felt the burden pressing down,
with no one seized to carry it behind,
but at least they had the means to grieve,
to shed their tears for one the cross would bear.
And surely, they would know that arrow, sword,
and torch would come for them in time
for he was right – in times not good, but not so hard,
they execute the Christ – far worse they did and do
When smoke and fire shrouds the sun.
Second Reading: Matthew 27:33, 34, 37
King of the Jews.
Title of contempt,
laced with bitterness.
Here, says Rome,
we slay pretenders
to the chair
we claim for Caesar,
no ruler but Rome.
No ruler but Rome,
the one upon
the cross who rules
in deed, rules indeed.
Third Reading: Luke 23:35, 36; 23:34, 39-43
O were the only source of sin my ignorance!
For then I’d claim the mercy of the Savior
freely, pleading only that I did not know
what I was doing.
But no, I must join the second soul suspended,
fully knowing that for all the good I seek to do,
my choices falter, resolution fails.
The ill I would not do – I do.
“Forgive them in their ignorance,” he said.
Forgive me in my knowledge.
May I hear the echo of your reassurance:
“You will be with me in Paradise.”
Fourth Reading: John 19:25-27
Cruel kindness, Christ, to hang before your loved ones
on the cross.
Cruel kindness, Christ, to use your waning breach to place
your mother in another’s care.
Cruel kindness, Christ, to let those loving eyes perceive
Cruel kindness, Christ, but on that day, what other kindness
could you share?
Fifth Reading: Luke 23:44-45
No word from Jesus on the cross.
No word, but only clouds to dim the sun.
No word, but only fabric’s failure
and the curtain separating God from us
has plummeted, has torn in tears.
Sixth Reading: Matthew 27:46
A loud voice. A loud voice.
You cried out with a loud voice,
the opening words of David’s song:
“My God, my God, why am I left alone?”
Was no breath left to finish it,
to whisper, “You are holy,…
to you they cried and were saved;…
they were not put to shame”?
But no, they mocked and scorned
(as in the psalm), they shook their heads.
They might have recognized the words.
Did anyone, did even you, recognize their end?
Seventh Reading: John 19:28-30
Theologies of glory lie ahead
in days and years and hearts and minds.
For now, the Maker of the Universe
can only gasp, “I thirst,”
and wonder at the sour taste,
the halting breath,
the sweet-sick scent
of hovering Death.
Eighth Reading: Luke 23:46
One more loud cry, and so
the lungs exhale once more,
to fill no more, and so
the great heart beats no more,
and so the Savior dies.