“Crowds”

“Hosanna! Savior, hail!” the masses cried
To greet their rightful King, though in their hearts
They shouted more to strain the chafing bonds
That long-oppressive Rome had laid on them
Than from true fealty to God’s anointed.

Not one week later, these same thronging crowds,
Incited by their leaders’ selfish plots
And stirred up into frenzied lust for blood,
Now clamored for their King to be condemned,
Abused, accursed, and put to gruesome death.

As he trudged through the streets, and up the hill,
Then hung in agony for his last hours,
The multitudes passed by to mock his end
Or stood to shout more scorn, but he was silent,
Suffering the bitter fate he chose
Without complaint, and even speaking grace
To those who tortured him before he died.

At last he breathed his final mortal breath
And cried his work’s completion to the sky;
An earthquake marked the opening of the way
That greater multitudes thereafter tread
Who have been, by his sufferings, brought to peace.

Photograph of Golgotha by an unknown photographer

I had long intended to write a poem for Good Friday, or at least for Holy Week, as in several of the last few years, but the first glimmers of an idea for the above only came to me less than a week ago.

As always, I earnestly welcome your comments, questions, critique, or other feedback about this or any other part of my work. If you’d like to read more of my poetry, you can read my archive (also organized in more manageable installments), follow this blog for (now only occasional) new poetry (among other things), or get my book, which contains over sixty of my best poems, each paired with a public-domain illustration or drawing. You may also share this poem with others, subject to my sharing policy.

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“Magi”

Inspired by a star, they traveled far
To kneel before the cradle of a king,
But then went home, and dropped out of the tale.
For once astrology was on the mark:
Not only Judah’s rightful king, but theirs,
Lay in the poverty of Bethlehem,
But did they later heed his gospel’s call?

As I was thinking about what to write to mark Epiphany this year, some lines popped into my mind. They weren’t quite right (to use them as they were would have meant switching to a different meter for the rest), but as I thought them through and revised them the stanza above nearly wrote itself.

Three Philosophers by Giorgione

As always, I earnestly welcome your questions, suggestions, or other comments about this or any other part of my work. If you’d like to read more of my poetry, you can read my archive (also organized in more manageable installments); get my book, which contains over sixty of my best poems, each paired with a public-domain illustration or drawing; or follow this blog for (now only occasional) new poetry (among other things). You may also share this poem with others, subject to my sharing policy.

“Incarnation” II

‘Twas God who first made Man in the beginning,
A perfect gardener for Eden’s peace:
Full-grown and mighty, wise yet innocent—
And yet, when faced with his first test, he failed,
And in his fall brought death to all that breathe.
(And so, in Adam’s fall, so sinned we all.)

Then God, to remedy our helpless state,
As he said he had planned from the beginning,
Stooped to earth and laid his rights aside,
And (marvellous to tell!) made himself Man,
Took up our flesh into his very being.
Born into a stable’s poverty
With all an infant’s needs and helplessness,
And no advantage that the world could see—
And yet, in hour of greatest trial, he cried,
“Your will, not mine,” and passed his final test,
And in his dying so put Death to death
And, rising, brought all who believe to life.

Nativity by Hans Baldung

I’ve been planning to write a poem for Christmas for months, and the idea for this one and the first few lines came to me a couple of weeks ago; I finished it last week. I could think of no title for it other than “Incarnation,” even though I’d already used that title so I decided to (as I’ve seen other poets do) reuse the title but mark this with a number to indicate which poem with the title it is.

As always, I earnestly welcome your questions, suggestions, or other comments about this or any other part of my work. If you’d like to read more of my poetry, you can read my archive (also organized in more manageable installments); get my book, which contains over sixty of my best poems, each paired with a public-domain illustration or drawing; or follow this blog for (now only occasional) new poetry (among other things). You may also share this poem with others, subject to my sharing policy.

“Veni, Emmanuel”

O promised God-Among-Us, gentle Child,
Come to the nation, people, you have claimed
As your inheritance, now languishing
In bondage like unto, but worse than that
You brought them forth from long ago in might.
O hoped-for Savior even of the nations,
Rightful King, whose very word is law
Throughout the entire cosmos, earth and sky
And everywhere that light or space can run,
For you have made both wind and fire your servants—
Come, fulfil their longing; save us, Lord!

Adoration of the Shepherds by Cima da Conegliano

This is a verse expansion or meditation on the seventh and last of the O Antiphons; the first and second poems in this project appeared three and two weeks ago respectively, the third, fourth, and fifth last week, and the sixth on Thursday. This was the first one I began, as its first lines came together in my mind months ago, but when the idea for the project took shape and deadlines loomed I set it aside to work from the other Antiphons first.

I have a poem for Christmastide in progress, and may write one for Epiphany (we’ll see); after that, given my usual pace of writing, I expect to resume the schedule at most one poem every two weeks. (I am grateful to have been able to even manage that with any degree of consistency for any lengths of time this year.)

As always, I earnestly welcome your questions, suggestions, or other comments about this or any other part of my work. If you’d like to read more of my poetry, you can read my archive (also organized in more manageable installments); get my book, which contains over sixty of my best poems, each paired with a public-domain illustration or drawing; or follow this blog for (now only occasional) new poetry (among other things). You may also share this poem with others, subject to my sharing policy.

“Veni, O Radix Jesse”

O Root of Jesse’s stem, O Righteous Branch,
You stand amid the peoples as a sign
Of God’s authority, presence, and power,
As if the highest flag within their gates
Or like the serpent Moses lifted up.
Before the unveiled glory of your presence
None can speak, and even kings fall dumb
Who throng to seek your guidance and your face
(As even righteous Job when God appeared),
But nations that revere your name in love
Cry out to you in times of their distress,
In trust that you will hear their earnest prayer:
Come, Root of Jesse, come, deliver us
From all oppressors, those who hold us bound
In fruitless ways of death, or seek our life.
Come, hasten, Lord; how long will you delay?

This is a verse expansion or meditation on the third of the O Antiphons; the first and second poems in this project have appeared in this space on the last two Fridays, and I hope to finish poems based on all seven antiphons before Christmas.

Študija drevesi by Alojz Eberl

As always, I earnestly welcome your questions, suggestions, or other comments about this or any other part of my work. If you’d like to read more of my poetry, you can read my archive (also organized in more manageable installments); get my book, which contains over sixty of my best poems, each paired with a public-domain illustration or drawing; or follow this blog for (now only occasional) new poetry (among other things). You may also share this poem with others, subject to my sharing policy.

“If Jesus is alive”

If Jesus is alive who once was dead,
How can my heart be sorrowful and sad?
For though the mortal courts and rulers spoke
And carried out their sentence on his life,
Then God, the Judge before whom all must stand
And from whose judgments there is no appeal,
Reversed and overturned their rash decree
And raised the Christ in glory from the grave—
And not to merely mortal life again,
As he gave Jairus’ child and Lazarus,
But Jesus rose in triumph and in might,
His body more alive than it had been. Continue reading

“Last Words”

The Lord of light and life has bared his back
To suffer spiteful scourging, spread his hands
In painful welcome wide beneath the nails,
And hung in human agony for hours.
But, as the soldiers gambled for his clothes,
His labored, anguished breath gave voice to grace:
“Forgive, because they know not what they do.”

Continue reading