Painting by Jacques Tissot

Mere days ago, when he rode up the hill,
The cheering throngs, with palms and wild acclaim
Did him the royal homage he was due.
And, when his foes rebuked him, Jesus said
That if the crowds held back Hosannas, praise,
Or shouts of acclamation, then the very rocks
On which the road was built would shout his fame.

But now, today, the Passover begun,
The fickle crowds now thirsty for his blood
And justice through their courts’ injustice done,
Creation shows this statement was no lie:
The very sun grows pale for these three hours;
So great her anguish at the pain of him
By whom she first was spoken into flame,
That darkness blots out every beam of light.

And when he breathes his last, his final words
Proclaiming that man’s debt is paid at last
And trusting all—his spirit—to God’s hands,
In grief and satisfaction the earth shakes
To mark its Maker’s death. At the same time
God tears the heavy curtain into two
That hangs within the temple’s Holy Place
to shield imperfect, mortal priests from death,
Because the perfect, final Sacrifice
Was offered and accepted, once for all,
To take away the sins of Adam’s sons.

I wrote this poem, for today’s occasion, this past week. It was initially sparked by reading the Palm Sunday text with fresh eyes, and perhaps a little by Rebecca Miller’s post about the Triumphal Entry (and her question about whether it should be Good Friday at all is also well worth reading). Over the next few days it mostly “wrote itself,” and then I just had to work through how to end it without breaking the meter.

As always, I earnestly welcome your (further) comments, suggestions, questions, critique, or other feedback about this or any other part of my work. (In other words, if you liked this poem, or you didn’t like it, or it made you think of something, or … please leave a comment to let me know.) If you liked this, you can follow this blog, which includes one of my poems every Friday, or read other poems I’ve written here on my blog (perhaps starting with those linked from one of the “archive ” installments, since the full archive is by now, at well over a hundred poems, somewhat daunting); I’d especially like to know, as part of my preparations for a collection, which poems you think are my best. You may also share this poem with others, subject to my sharing policy.

This poem is also mirrored on my wiki.


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