Poems by contemporary Canadian poets. Starting a new annual tradition at Faith Today.
More Easter poems
An online supplement of contemporary Canadian poetry, as promised in our Mar/Apr 2020 feature article.
By Sarah Klassen
Here you cannot help remembering
King Lear, blind, forsaken
on that hostile, wind-lashed heath
or Hagar crouched beneath a dry shrub
shielding her son’s parched skin
against the mid-day sun’s belligerence
herself against despair.
Stones grow in the desert
the universe shrinks
prize and priority diminish
desire fits uneasily
inside two naked words:
By Sarah Klassen
The goose that laid the egg lies flattened
on the gravelled ledge overhanging the entrance.
A hard bed for birth. The gander stakes out space
in the featureless parking lot from where he eyes
goose and egg. The shining oval is not golden;
it is white and large and holds within its fragile skin
the future. The door opens: a child emerges
and a woman with the slow pace of Parkinsons.
They do not see the goose that laid the egg.
They see the gander stretching his elegant neck,
impatient for the shell to break open
the way the sun (while child and woman slept)
broke through night’s darkness to release
the first gold shaft of light.
By Mary Willis
Moon's monocle is faintly trained
on our houses, opaque prisms. Emerging,
we navigate a second dark, letting him lead us out of town
to this—a humming field, horizoned by woods,
tendrils of birdsong and breezes,
earth producing its natural praise,
our opening hymn. He passes his hands
over eyes still dream-riddled: What do you see?
I think we'd all guess the same—trees walking,
sleepwalking, dressed in fuzzy green pyjamas, a fog of buds?
He gives us time for prayers, responses,
and human hands raise the host. Easter unfolds, a fan
of light flashing across our vision. Everything for an instant
is crystal clear through spectral colours
that only perfect scarred hands could fingerprint.
Sun and Son
By Mary Willis
He is not like the sun, a daily immigrant
but often clouded by our atmosphere.
I will never leave you,
he had said, closing forever
the cracked door to nowhere.
Not even with that glorified body?
Mary must have questioned, deflected,
standing still in the growing astonishment
of garden, among trees leaning in
for a clearer view of holiness.
Don't touch, he warned,
as we warn children away from wildfire
we've brought too casually home,
a blaze of more than metaphor.
By Sally Ito
The sky is uncertain, clouding over one minute,
letting the sun shine the next. Its inability to choose
is a metaphor for my own lax state of belief.
Indifference is what crucified Him,
I tell my only son, while paring an apple.
What? He says. What’s indifference?
Never mind, I reply. The light through the window
has an unsettled look, and the wind is picking up,
shaking the branches of the elm. The dog raises
her head, and hears something only she can hear.
I slice the apple into quarters and give a piece to my son.
In the kitchen, a lump of dough rises
in the bread pan.
The Third Day of Searching
By Sally Ito
A hunter is lost in the woods.
They are sending out a search party.
What was he seeking? That star-antlered buck
that has always eluded him, the great prey
of his yearning?
Every year, he must look for it. Every year,
he goes alone. Every year, failing, he returns.
But now it is the third day. The wife who waits
puts on her housecoat, sits by the front window
as if by a sealed tomb. The curtain between her
and the glass is half drawn.
What will rend the coming hour – Grief or Joy?
By Debbie Sawczak
I am packing my bundle for Emmaus.
We tried to postpone,
neither of us much in the mood anymore.
He was evidently just a passing messiah,
yet his passing has opened a pit at my feet.
I will fall in forever
if I dare a step.
Now and then,
I back up, wide-eyed,
ask myself, ‘What
is that frozen manlike thing
that clenches a soul in its fist?’
And I answer:
‘Oh, yes—it is me,
I hear things as if they were far away.
My brother Matthias’s talk:
“Be good if it rains,
it’ll settle the dust . . .
We should stop in the shade and rest,
do you think?
. . . I wonder what Uncle wants to talk to us about?”
Here I surprise myself by muttering,
“Not about God or the Promise, I hope,”
while I try by vigorous kicking
to get the pebble out of my sandal.
says my brother.
Out of the corner of my eye he looked at me twice
before daring my name.
“They did say they’d seen him alive.
What do you call that, Cleopas?
The sun glitters hard like a shield,
like a new coin over our heads,
and gilds the roof of the roadside taberna.
“Probably both, Matthias;
anyway, the Romans are still in charge.”
Man comes up even with Matthias.
A face you might see any day in the market,
but a line of pocklike marks on the forehead,
dark eyes deeper than Jacob’s well.
He doesn’t strike me as a robber,
but I’ve learned:
in this world, you don’t know who anyone is.
I return his nod and look up the white rutted road,
see nothing in the glare.
“You two seem low;
wasn’t your Passover happy?”
Staring, I stumble in surprise
“What?! And where have you been?”
The pebble rolls suddenly out of my sandal.
The untidy story spurts from my loosened lips.
The man is as good at prophecy as Jesus.
(I can’t believe I am thinking that!)
But in his mouth the prophets are a riddle
looks like Jesus:
this weekend from which I am reeling is really
the perfect, preposterous answer.
Unbearable knowledge crouched at my mind’s edge
springs to the centre, explodes,
so hot it scorches my heart.
It smashes the scaffolding skillfully raised
round my crumbling spirit.
I am limp and dumb like a baby just out of the womb
before the first breath.
Fortunately, as always,
Matthias can still use his tongue:
“We’re here, our uncle lives just in here;
look, it’s sunset,
stay with us, come,
we’ll give you supper.
Sorry, we have no servant;
there’s water in the jar
in the corner by the door
for your hands and feet.”
Our guest glances meaningly at us,
then back at the jar;
his faint smile broadens, opens to a grin.
I rap the bowls down quickly, wood on wood,
while Matthias stacks up questions:
“When will this kingdom of the Scapegoat start?
How, again, are we healed by his stripes?
What about ‘coming on the clouds’?
What’s that you said about the ‘sign of Jonah’?
But Sir, if first you would say the blessing—?
We’ll talk some more over food.”
Man takes the bread in lean dark hands,
and lifts them.
I suddenly see those marks,
they deafen me one long moment,
I hear no word
till the Amen breathed
as the bread is torn:
that sinewy twist I know!
I know that particular roll of the wrist,
am seeing it now for the sixtieth time
and the first.
My heart has burst!
And his chair is empty.
About the poets: Sally Ito of Winnipeg teaches creative writing at Canadian Mennonite University. Her poem “Holy Saturday” was previously published in The Society, Vol. 16, 2019 (magazine of St. Peter’s College in Muenster, Sask.). Sarah Klassen is a poet and fiction writer in Winnipeg. Debbie Sawczak is a writer in Georgetown, Ont. Mary Willis is a writer in London, Ont. Suggestions or submissions for Easter 2021 are welcome. And don't miss Dipping a toe into poetry, a shortlist of recommendations published at the end of the companion article Exploring the mystery through words.