Stations 1 / 8 / 14
Amazed he was at his naivete,
This Jewish “king” from some pathetic town
Up north. Had he not well enough conveyed
The power he had to nail the fellow down?
—The wife comes running with her sordid dream;
And “Crucify him!” they all start to scream—
“Another day in this forsaken land,”
He thinks, and calls for water for his hands…
In silence deep the king hears he’s to die,
And suddenly the world becomes so small
He wonders he can stand on it at all.
No angels tend him now nor glorify,
Just tiny men who God and grace forswore,
Yet somehow now he loves them all the more.
The daughters of Jerusalem, they wailed
And beat their breasts at such a horrid fate:
Why, just last week this man was roundly hailed.
How could such praise so quickly turn to hate?
The irony gave looming death a sting
That only slaughtered innocence can bring.
And so they wept the saltiest of tears
As sad he passed amid the gibes and jeers.
But Jesus had an irony more meet:
“It’s not for me,” he said, “that you should mourn
But for yourselves and babes that you have borne.
The bloodied day will come when you entreat
The very mountains bury kith and kin.
Jerusalem shall fall for all her sins.”
With little time even to wash his wounds,
Lest Sabbath purity should be defiled
They laid him in a chamber newly hewn
And fore its door a heavy stone was piled.
They sighed and at life’s sadness shook their head:
The mystery of the man was finally dead.
Nor criminal nor Christ—they never knew.
They buried their confusion and withdrew.
—Except for Marys two a bit away
Who marked the spot so that they might acquit
Ablutions and anointings that befit
A prophet and their love for him convey.
But Sabbath first, they’d come back weekday morn
To witness endless life from death reborn.
Jeffrey Essmann is an essayist and poet living in New York. His work has appeared in numerous magazines and literary journals, among them America Magazine, Dappled Things, the St. Austin Review, U.S. Catholic and various venues of the Benedictine monastery with which he is an oblate, with work upcoming in First Things and the New Oxford Review. He is editor of the Catholic Poetry Room.