A Poem for Palm Sunday

In this week of marches and protests, I’ve been thinking about activists. Why does it feel scary to join in? In contrast to so many other times in history and places around the world, we are free in this country to gather, to protest, to march.  The worst that could happen to us is an arrest; in other regimes we could be tortured or killed if we gathered to walk the streets with signs or if we shouted slogans and asked for change.

These words from Luke 19 about Palm Sunday seem particularly fitting today.

 “…they threw their coats on the colt and put Jesus on it. As He was going, they were spreading their coats on the road.  As soon as He was approaching, near the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the miracles which they had seen, shouting: “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord; Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”

Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Him, “Teacher, rebuke Your disciples.”  But Jesus answered, “I tell you, if these become silent, the stones will cry out!” 

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I imagine a woman in that crowd, I try to put myself in her shoes. She was likely illiterate; her culture would not have valued her; it was a time of oppression and fear. Hailing allegiance to Jesus would have been a defiant, brave act.

Even Stones Cry Out

As I walked they thrust palms in my hand
so close I could touch Him
and the mangy ass.
For once I did
a brave thing, too
shouted Hosanna 
called out King
I had never heard the sound of my voice so lifted, loud.

I took off my coat, put it down.
Scared as shit, I
joined the throng
We moved through streets
crowds growing
all of us caught up in
laughter
in possibility

Caesar’s guards watched
blood hungry, spears ready

This is no place for risk
I live in confines
I breathe under the weight of ugly rules.
When I go back for my coat will they take me?

Strange how this Jesus
gives me what I cannot give myself
how He makes me more than I am

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Photos courtesy of Karen Heyse

Poem: Innkeepers

Living in a tourist area has given me a new appreciation for one little aspect of the Nativity account. I know innkeepers now, along with people who run gift shops and clean hotel rooms and serve in restaurants. Theirs are bi-polar lives: a manic pace in the summer, a dearth of activity in the winter.  My friends here are people who like people: they enjoy their visitors and customers;  they like the conversations and the interchanges with vacationers. But I can tell you that they get tired. Nearly two million people come here in the summer and fall, and it’s a grueling pace to keep.

For many years I’ve written a Christmas poem. Now that I know a few innkeepers, the words from Luke caught my eye this season as I read through the advent account.  Here’s imagining…

“..and everyone went to their own town to register…While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room available for them in the inn.”  Luke 2:3,7

 

Innkeepers

They grow weary of crowds, of laundry relentless
of chatter continual, the same questions again and again

When there are no rooms, there’s little to be done
The sty, with the stink of animals
at least was something
 
Who doesn’t know, he was surely thinking
that the town would be full, the hotels all arranged months ahead.
But here is a man, and here is a woman
so ready to burst, so weary.

A midwife had to be found
blood and muffled screams
the girl alone
laboring with strangers

and then shepherds with stories
searching for a baby
chiding the man for the stable
saying give them a better place
saying these people are better than they seem

 

 

 

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Poem: Man of the Upper Room

In this week before Easter, I have spent time again reading the accounts of Jesus’ last few days on earth. The Gospels report the events, but I am always drawn to the people that must have been so affected by those events.

Here are my thoughts on one of them, the host (restauranteur?) who provided that last supper for Jesus and the disciples.   (For extra background, read Mark 14:12-15 or Luke 22:7-13.

Jesus remembered the Passover, eating that Seder dinner with his disciples in the tradition that would have been done by Jews in Jerusalem for centuries. But He also knew His own death was coming. Along with other Christians, I see powerful symbolism in His death – a new sacrifice for a new kind of Passover. I’ve hoped to hint at that with this poem.

Man of the Upper Room

 Of course you can use this room, I said to
those friends of His, riding high on
celebrity, renown.

And yes, I’ll keep it a secret
promising to keep away onlookers, the flocking crowds
who wanted to gawk
see scales fall from eyes
watch magic food multiply inside baskets.

Yes, I’ll have extra basins of water for your feet
Though I hardly thought they’d need it
walking as they did that week on green palm leaves
fame growing, applause ringing
smiles ubiquitous.

There will be enough lamb for the dinner, I assured
and spent the day slaughtering.
Blood of goats and sheep
flowed into the mud just outside the door.

All is ready, I told them.
But I was not ready

He washed my feet
made me eat with them.
Kindly, He said my lamb did not
particularly matter.
And, there was to be more
blood, His blood.

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Our song. ( Poem)

Some couples have “their song.” In the movies, lovers swoon, turn sentimental when it comes on a jukebox. Now, spouses make it their ring tones.  This is the closest thing we’ve got. True story.

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Our Song

We had no business climbing.

I didn’t have the right shoes.

I had rarely walked so far,
never climbed so high.

But we walked anyway, always up.
Through pine forests
past smooth granite and
thickets of rhododendrons
across rocky ridges of shale.

Above the tree line
we labored in a boulder field on all fours.

Early though, we heard the song of a white throated sparrow.

Whether we chased him up or merely followed,
the whole way up Mt. Washington
it sang.

Clear-like-water notes
echoed across those ridges, around the turns,
back and forth on switchbacks

until its song soared into our memories
and lasted
across all those years.

Today there is one at my feeder,
a white throat.
I heard his song in the barren
shrubs outside my window.

We walk on flat ground now.
Four pure notes
persist

still accompanying our climb

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to listen, click here. ( Scroll down, click on “Song”)

From Mary

Morning

When I woke
the birds were singing

foretaste of what was to be

In my tears ( again)
I could barely see to lift the spices
and the cloths to wash Him

Walking there
I heard distant laughing

In my bitterness I wondered at how quickly they’d forgotten

But there was no stopping those birds from singing

They kept on
until joined with gardener’s words
and angel songs
there was a mighty symphony when I heard His voice call my name

Mary

I touched Him
and heard Him

my Lord and My God

Risen

 

( I wrote this poem years ago.  Happy Easter!)

Choosing- a Poem

 

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Her headscarf, a lovely shade of rose
hides curls, I think, and a surprising streak of auburn.

I wonder if, in the reddish soil of her home
pomegranates are growing, just now, in her garden.

And if they do and you were there, sitting in the sun,
would you smile
take one that she offered
say thank-you?

Or would you stand
doling out bits of manners like crumbs?

~

His skin, the color of rich ground that grows potatoes
sings lamentations, sings silence
sings pain.

I wonder if, in the summer of his home
his children are laughing
twirling in soft grass

And if they are, and you were there,
would you watch stars
listen to old stories
let them make you wise, good?

Or would you, even in that place of air
keep your foot on his neck

and hold him
down

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Poem: The Falling of Cold Rain

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The Falling of Cold Rain

Inside, I listen to rain beating.

But there was no staying dry
for the woman on this land before me
in cabin of hewn logs
spent and weary after a day
of moving rocks
willing potatoes from the soil

Longer ago before her,
girls, at fourteen
wandered and moved with their clans
fished at nearby dunes.
In shelters of hide, pines,
they could not have been glad
at the dripping of bone-chill rain.

And even now
rain pours upon fleeing refugees
drenches mothers who hammer gravel from stone
and makes cold the scratched-armed, spine-bent children
who gather beans for my chocolate.

The rain falls on the just and the unjust,” Christ said.

But it does not fall on me.

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images Writing Prompt. This poem is about privilege. What do you have that others don’t?