We’re almost at the end of the Ten Days of Poem-mas! Which is probably just as well, because my habitual erratic posting means I’m ill-suited to daily blogging and keep forgetting that such a thing exists. Fortunately it provides me with another way to procrastinate on writing my dissertation, but nevertheless I don’t think it’s something I’d ever do long term.
Because it’s nearly Christmas, and I come from a Christian background, I thought I’d share one of my more theological poems — though it’s more an Easter poem than a Christmas one. In fact, it’s very much an Easter one. BUT WHATEVER. TIME DOESN’T REALLY EXIST.
I wrote this in the late summer of 2014, and it comes from Broken Body Fragile Heart. I was on a Christian camp — I’ve been on quite a few of those in my life. They’re organised by Scripture Union and the ones I’ve been on have ranged from sailing to computer programming, with a bit of God stuff thrown in. This one was pretty chilled out, because it’s aimed at older people than most of the others I went on, and it was also smaller.
I don’t remember what it was exactly, but one of the leaders was reading a passage from a sort of re-imagining of the crucifixion. It wasn’t from the Bible — it was a piece of fiction or something, and it focused on little tiny details that aren’t in the traditional narrative. Particularly, I remember that it says Jesus stumbled under the weight of the cross.
I actually ended up writing two poems about this — Crucifixion and Stumble. I’m not sure why it stood out so much to me, except that it seemed to humanise that moment, make it more human. I’m going to share Crucifixion, because I think it’s more interesting in terms of poetic techniques or whatever. It draws on a lot of the ideas I come back to again and again about the Easter story: Jesus’s prayer to have this ‘cup of suffering’ taken away, his cry of, “My god, my god, why have you abandoned me?” The idea that he was scared. That he didn’t want to die, but he did it anyway.
I guess it would be worth saying that I have a complicated relationship with my faith, and have struggled a lot with doubt over the last few years. I’m not entirely sure what I believe. However, my worldview has been steeped in Christianity for so long that I still see everything through that lens (it makes my dissertation harder — medieval Christianity wasn’t like the faith I grew up with, and I keep having to separate the two in my head). I think this poem has value even if you don’t believe a word of it, because it wasn’t written as an expression of faith or with religious motives.
So, all disclaimers aside, here’s the poem.
— — —
god child – you stumble
under the weight of death you made
with calloused hands to smooth wood
and eyes to raze forests.
falling, weakness, lost
without a father’s helping hand,
all your words and people far away.
life father – you stagger
and let fall your coffin burden
for a friend to carry to your death,
black night and all his angels
fascinated by the blood so human
dripping down your ragged back.
heart brother – you mourn
for your lovers who watch your pilgrimage
towards a shrine of your execution,
cry out for the killers as for a friend.
bitter fear clogs your bones like mud:
abandonment, hatred in the eyes
of the father you serve unto death.
blood sacrifice – born to suffer,
you never feel the wingbeats of sentinels
shielding you from the waiting darkness
but only your abandonment and the fear
that obedience cannot overcome.
this is why you are here: to die
before the eyes of foolish men.
— — —
Tomorrow will be the last post in this Poem-mas series. I’ve enjoyed writing these — seeing how my thoughts and experiences turned into poems have reminded me how I used to compulsively write poems, and I hope soon I’ll be able to do that again. I’ve also enjoyed sharing my work with you, rather than talking about it in the abstract, and maybe I’ll be able to do that again in the future.
I hope you’ll possibly consider checking out my collections (you can find them all on the Books page), but no pressure. I’ll be back with one more poem tomorrow!