One more for Easter

Easter’s sun rises over Hartford

 

Happy Resurrection Day, my Lord!
I’ve one more poem-prayer for you
To mark this Lent – though yesterday it ended –
Written at the close of day, not dawn,
For as the sun arose this morn
I had come to worship. 

And then it was a day of driving
And of worship, Lord
(And dinner. I will not deny the dinner).
Two worship services this morning,
Singing high and loud –
The songs of joy for tenors
Tend to go that way – 
Then back into the car to drive
To where my daughter waited for me
At her college library,
Then we’re off to dinner
With the family
(Lots of dinner. I will not deny the dinner).

Hugs and laughter, smiles and stories,
Concern about each others’ health and happiness,
Ignoring yet another silver shower of snow
(On Easter? Really? Yes!)
Beyond the window.

Back into the car, back to college dorm,
Back to home (the snow now turned to rain)
And now, a poem-prayer, just one more,
To bring to close this Lenten litany,
This catalogue of Scriptural reflection,
Contemporary indignation,
Complaints about the weather
(Oh, my: I really did do that a lot.),
Occasional soul-searching,
Some self-congratulation
And some unredemptive condemnation of myself as well,
Leavened, just a bit, I pray 
With spiritual wisdom
Resting there by grace. 

Just one more, and this is done.

What sweet irony, that on this Easter Day,
As I complete this last lyric of Lent,
I recognize that for you,
This Resurrection Day is not an end,
But only the beginning.

Where I lay down this bittersweet
Task of devotion,
You take up anew
The labor to redeem the world.

I praise you, Risen Christ,
For the life you have reclaimed:
The life you have renewed
For all of us.

I praise you, Risen Christ,
For overcoming all the terrors
Of human pride, and sin, and greed,
And even an arrogant poet’s fumbling lines,
To demonstrate once more that when
Love faces evil, in the struggle
Grace will triumph in the end.

I close this poem, this series, and this day
Give me strength to serve tomorrow, I do pray.

Amen. 

Saturday

Okay, Jesus, let’s get real.
Well, I’ll get real, or try.
While you’re taking your day off
(Unless preaching to the souls in prison,
Whatever that might mean,
Is a lot of work)
I’ll take your time to ask this question:

How deluded am I?

And in the spectrum of delusion,
Where do mine reside?

I suppose it’s an inevitable conundrum
For anyone who shares my flaws of personality.

My arrogance tells me that what I do is great,
Assures me of the impact of my work,
Persuades me that if given time
(Even insufficient time)
I’ll magically produce great things.

My insecurity is sure
That I aspire to achieve a trifling mediocrity.
If given time, I’ll squander it, distracted,
And only use the last few hours to complete,
Half-finished, rough, and laughable,
What had potential for a thing of beauty –
In someone else’s hands.

My arrogance resents accomplishment in others.
My insecurity expects it, even honors it,
But only to depress my spirit.
Perhaps it’s not accomplishment itself –
I appreciate good work I see –
But recognition more than I receive
(Yes! There it is! It’s jealousy!)
Which I allow to drag me down.

You see the problem, Jesus,
(Better than I, I’m sure):
With my ability to analyze
My own accomplishments so skewed,
So pulled in one direction or the other,
How do I assess myself?
How do I evaluate the world?

Just how deluded am I?

I’d ask you to remove these flaws,
But I told you I was trying to be real,
And we both know that that won’t work.
For one thing, I’d resist.
However lumpy and uneven,
This is the bed my spirit rests in.
Who’d know me if you swept these quirks away?
How would I know myself?

But if you could, still-speaking Jesus,
Thread the needle (worse than saving a rich man)
And find the part of me that’s capable
Of recognizing truth, even about myself,
Raise up reality to hold against the flaws,
To shame the arrogance and
Rectify the insecurity,
Then I should surely weep for joy. 

I hope I’ve made it real this Holy Saturday.
I’ve tried. 

I’m asking, Jesus, for your help
So I can keep it real. 

Thursday

It doesn’t take a prophet
To see the future tonight.
The sleep is written clearly
On their eyelids
And their eyes:
Eyes which I only see
In glimpses
As the eyelids flutter
Open. 

Simon and Thaddeus,
James and Bartholomew,
Matthew and Thomas,
Philip and Andrew:
Wait here, awake,
Stay here and pray.
I’ll take these three,
Step over this way,
Stop there and pray.

It doesn’t take a prophet
To know that all eight of them
Will fall asleep.

But James Boanerges,
And John Son of Thunder:
The fire in your souls
Will stifle your yawns,
Will it not?
And Simon, my Rock,
Impulsive, outspoken,
(Too rarely thinking),
Of your fellows unique
For raising objections
When I chart a future
Of failure and death.

But it doesn’t take a prophet
To know they’ll lay their heads down
And even their snores won’t wake them.

Judas, now: he’ll stay awake.

It doesn’t take a prophet
To know where he is,
What he’s doing.

I could read his face at dinner.
He thought he wore a mask,
But the mask betrayed him
Just as surely as he goes
To betray me.

It doesn’t take a prophet
To know what’s coming,
What will happen
To me. 

If they but paid attention, Oh!
They’d stay awake –
Indeed, they’d run.
They will run in an hour.
Peter puts his faith
In his staunch courage
And so say they all,
But just as sleep denies me
The comfort of his prayer tonight
His fear will rise to deny me
Tomorrow.
And so will they all.

It doesn’t take a prophet
To know what’s coming,
What will happen
With them.

It doesn’t take a prophet
To know what’s coming,
What will happen
To me.

Does it take a prophet
To wait here, all alone
Amidst the slumbering
Nascent betrayers,
For the kiss of death?
Some ignorance
Might have been kinder.
There will be others down the years
Who’ll wait for death
And torture’s visitation:
Ten of these, in fact.

It doesn’t take a prophet
To know what’s coming,
Or
To endure what’s coming.

It takes a prophet to take comfort
In what lies beyond what’s coming,
To see the strength and courage
Of these sleeping men,
To hope for victory beyond defeat,
To see new life upon the farther shore
Of death.

Wednesday

The people love him, and he’s bested us
At every argument (because he did?),
So we can see the trembling applecart
Which threatens to spill blood, not fruit, to drain
Into the Kidron Brook. He’s made us look
Like fools – the mocking laughter echoes still.
Where learning fails, then money may suffice
To rid us of this meddling carpenter.
We need a time and place to seize him, out
Of sight of crowds which might take arms and launch
The war which will destroy not only them
But us, the city, and the nation. Make
This one obscure and soon forgotten man
The sacrifice who saves the world we know.
So open up the treasury, and see
What we might offer one of his close friends
To tell us when, and where, and who he is
(Those guards pay no attention; they won’t know).
Six stacks of silver, thirty coins in all:
Yes, this may do; yes, this may serve to coax
Betrayal from a disappointed friend.

Those last two coins? The small ones? Put them back.
They only speak of humble poverty.
We deal with sacrifices and with grand
Designs; it is not fit that we should so
Betray our desperation by a pair
Of copper mites – nor does a Nazarene,
No matter how he troubles us, command
A bounty made of gold. This price will serve.
We hardly dare to hope that we will find
Our agent soon, but search we must. Let’s pray
We have our opportunity, and seize
Our carpenter, before the festival
Gets fully under way. Tomorrow night
Is much too soon to hope for and almost
Too late to make our sacrifice to Rome
Before its wrath erupts in fire and blood.

A quiet trial on this Thursday would
Ensure a Friday we will count as good.
 

Tuesday

An applecart looks stable.
Two posts descend
From its side poles
To rest upon the ground
In balance with the running wheels
Beneath the load.
But it’s a fragile
Frail solidity.
Too great a weight
Upon the bed behind the wheels –
“Do not sit there, sir!” –
And we’ve upset the applecart.
The joint where posts
And side poles meet
Is hard to reinforce.
Too great a force,
Particularly at an angle,
And the fasteners will fail,
The poles will fall,
The apples topple to the ground
And roll in avalanche
Accelerating down the slope
To spill pedestrians below.

The city Jesus entered was an applecart,
Its frail stability
Obscure to many,
Painfully apparent to the ones
Who had their hands
Upon its pulling rails.
Apples plunging down its
Steep and stony slopes
Would fell the people
And the promise
Of a nation. 

The stakes are high.
The situation perilous.
In times like these,
One must do what one must
To keep those apples balanced,
Keep the fragile posts of peace
From breaking.

Do what one must.
What one must.
One must.

Anything one must.

The end: It justifies the means.

Doesn’t it?

And thus are innocents betrayed.
And thus are innocents condemned. 

Monday

Yesterday the city got
An earfull and an eyefull:
The sudden improvised parade
(That some would call a mob)
Was followed by a scene
Of shouted threats and violence
(Did those plaited cords he wove
Into a whip find skin
While driving money changers
From the Temple?). 
Like a boulder trembling on a hillside,
Or rather like a city occupied
By a callous foreign power
Rebellion hovered in the air.
Collaborators – those who benefit
From embracing foreign overlords –
Must have trembled,
Hands tensed and then relaxed,
But never quite released
From hafts of spears,
From hilts of swords.

Today the city gets to catch its breath.
The voices raised are in debate,
The arguments of scholars in the Temple.
The Galilean teacher’s fame
Has overcome his humble origins.
They would have happily ignored him,
Now he stands and, damn the man,
Confounds them point by point.
Just when it seems they have him trapped
(Let’s force him to a fatal choice
Between rebellion against Rome
And blasphemy against our God)
He slips away and turns the rhetoric
Upon his adversaries. 

Beyond these sacred courts
The tension shivers in the city.
The festival has filled the streets
The Roman Governor is resident,
The client King is in his palace, too.

At times like these,
Is there anything
More frightful
Than
A prophet? 

Hosannah

“Hosannah!” cried the people,
As the prophet/healer climbed the streets.
“Save us!” cried the people
To the donkey-mounted teacher.

“Save us!” would become a mockery
In just five days
When “You saved others, save yourself!”
Officials who conspired
At judicial murder
Threw into the face
Of this same
Tortured
Dying
Man.

“Hosannah!” “Save us!”
Not, as modern English ears
Would hear it,
“Hallelujah!” “Praise to God!”

Jesus did not hear
The praises of the little children.
Jesus heard
The desperation of their parents.

Save the desperate, God,
From their oppression and despair.
Save the desperate, God,
From our complacency and ignorance.

Save the desperate, God,
From our talent
For self-serving re-translation
That turns the cry for aid
Into a shout of joy. 

Snow? Again?

Snow falls past trees

Snowflakes – Barely visible, but there

 

Outside my window: No! The Flakes of Hell!
(Yes, I’ve read Dante, so I know that Hell
Is cold.) The pride of my New England birth
And heritage is humbled. Leave my big
Kid snow boots by the door and look for me
Beneath the bedclothes. That’s where I will be.

All right, it’s really nothing. So few flakes
The camera on my tablet captures none
Of the descending argent, so few flakes
They hardly rate the designation, “dust.”
So far, so good, and hardly worth the woe
Which rises in me at the sight of snow. 

I’d like to blame you, God, or at the least,
Infer a parable to guide my life
From these soft frozen crystals, but I know
That it’s not all about me. Weather comes,
And as a human who contributes to
A change in climate, I contribute, too.

No lesson, then, nor radical despair,
Unless I seize some comfort in the thought
That I can cope. This straw will not destroy
This camel’s back, nor will this snow, for God,
My God, the One who strewed this stuff around
Is also Who can clear it from the ground.