Daughters of Jerusalem (A poem for Holy Week)
In the past I’ve shared this poem, which I wrote a few years ago for my church, on Good Friday. This year I’ve decided to share it today, on Holy Wednesday, as we begin to retell ourselves the story of Easter.
Daughters of Jerusalem
from Luke 23:27-31
Blessed is the womb that never felt one tiny foot
press out and drag slow inside. The living lump
beneath skin, a curled child who begs to stretch.
Gravity presses even the unborn toward earth’s dust.
Blessed are the empty breasts, the woman
who never held the baby’s body against her own,
rocking in the late night darkness, eyes closed,
bodies alive, both clinging to the other for living milk.
Blessed are you, woman! The days are coming
when you will be called safe, you without grief
for the tender bodies or the world’s sharp corners.
Children crash and tear and never come home whole.
Blessed are you who grieve the teacher’s dying,
watch his moaning crawl along the broken road.
Blessed are you who weep for his blue-beaten body,
his wretched stumble under splintered wood.
Blessed woman, you who wail his torn flesh, its dangle
toward earth, you who grasp hope that he’ll summon angel
warriors, blast this barren hill with light, burn bright
this dried up death. Blessed are you who beg mercy.
Daughters of Jerusalem! It would be better if you’d never held
the living beneath your skin, known the weight you carried.
You point toward what is taken here: The Word that speaks
us into being is silenced. The celestial carrier of hope, emptied.
He speaks desperation. He dies his body. But he is pregnant
with mystery: he gathers the cosmic collection of every hopeless
sigh, every loss, every hatred formed against another,
every embittered soul, every unloved and unlover.
It enters him: the great hot chasm of sin. He opens his chest
wide to hold the oozing dark. Weep, you who cannot
undo the life you’ve made: the small hands, the legs
that wobbled and tipped toward earth. Grieve the children,
grieve the tree as it falls. Let the green wood
thump into the loose dust. Earth gives life green
then dries it brown. We take wood and form it
either to table or death tool. Who can say?