Poems by contemporary Canadian poets. Continuing a new annual tradition at Faith Today.
More Easter poems
An online supplement of contemporary Canadian poetry, as promised in our Mar/Apr 2021 issue.
Solitary Dove, Easter Morning
DAVID LYLE JEFFREY
What, dove, this Easter morning,
that you should sigh, low on the earth
beneath my window?
This cell looks out on light,
rays from rising solar fires
angled low through shining wreaths,
leaves of the yew tree where you rest,
ringmarked, grey robed,
greeting the sun.
This is the morning for all rejoicing:
the Son has risen. Yet your voice still
seems fraught, yearning, tinged with anticipation,
longing as though for another sun, another day.
Alone, like you this day
My senses too reach out –
Where far (or maybe not so far) away
The air is charged with sighs
– nay, cries of anguish, rent
as the slow world spins on its altered axis,
cruel and carnal.
When shall this flesh, this web of death
at last be overcome? Like you then, too,
I sigh, cry:
Even so Lord Jesus come!
Surely, Christ, your Bride is won.
“they said unto them, Why seek ye the living among the dead? He is not here but is risen: remember how he spoke unto you when he was yet in Galilee” Luke 24. 5-6; 10-11
Jesus Christ knows flesh,
bodies speaking, always did
do what his Father said
His mother’s hard labour first,
in time his own: walked his talk, then
was crossed, tombed, shut up for good
dead (it was said)
He heard his Father say, rise
be born again this day.
“It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Mary, the mother of James, and the other women that were with them, which told these things unto to the apostles. And their words seemed to them as idle tales, and they believed them not.”
the young man
with the rare cancerous
tumour on his brain
on Good Friday
bitter winds from the north blew
all day rain fell.
the sun refused to shine
and we were left
in that grey space between
friday and easter
our hearts empty
our cups overflowing
At some point it comes to
just you and us.
We're walking our road to Emmaus
that despite false starts and backtracking
is linear, moves reasonably through time.
We believe we've left you
where you failed us, glory spent,
dead to our enterprise,
and even if subsequent reports are true
and you are alive, you must have moved beyond
the nail-studded lilies of Gethsemane
to heaven's luxuriant trees of life
by saints’ transparent hands.
But then, with feet as dusty as ours,
you approach in disguise,
deliberately veiling our eyes,
curving in so close
you wholly occupy our blind spot
with your infinity of dark.
You force us to reopen the case,
read the evidence according to your point of view—
the one on trial, we think
until you start to walk on, apart
and we see the dependable night of earth
returning to lock us in.
It's our choice if the miracle will occur,
our line and your circle intersect.
We can hand you the key straight away,
you can turn time back,
the morning star can enter
our small stone house.
Touching his robe was like catching
the flying silk hem
of the Sea of Galilee.
For a pause in all the crosscurrents
of talk, local weather,
we were the only two speaking.
After he walked on, parting
the crowd with blue-washed words,
I went with my oldest friend
to her house. Together we spun
fine linen that snagged on dry hands,
while the sun seeped through porous palms,
a distant ripple of muffled water,
yet it was cooler inside, and neither of us
felt like talking much. She had caught
a subcurrent too. I didn't have to explain
my fullness, emptiness,
but it was only later we heard
that he rose for everyone he left.
Poems on the Seven Last Words
Woman, Here is Your Son
You who cradled me once
now let me go.
I don’t say it lightly.
You are most privileged of women;
such things come at a cost.
Whether you might have refused had you known
is immaterial now.
We made our choices: you in your room, I in a garden.
Let’s accept the playing out of our destinies.
The reunion comes after.
Here is Your Mother
Take care of her for my sake.
You have my love in common.
Still waters, both of you,
close in my affections as you well know.
not as one who held infinity in her uncomprehending arms,
but as a mother whose mute ministrations could not keep, or save her son.
This Day Paradise
Today you will join me in paradise. Luke 23: 43 The Message
Night shadows give birth to light;
Drowning eyes open to childhood’s endless morning.
I know the way; look at me.
I will take you down to death but I never loose my grip.
Don’t let your gaze waver
Be deaf to their catcalls and your fears, fading already.
Hang on; the dawn rushes toward us.
I Thirst (John 19:28)
Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink? John 4:7 (NIV)
the woman at the well reflects
When I first saw him, sweating in the sun,
he asked me for a drink.
At that hour, sane people stayed indoors,
eating dates and yogurt in the cool of their homes.
But we were not sane people, he and I.
Both driven out by our thirst:
his for God;
mine for what I didn’t know.
In those days I drank salt water,
Clutched at life,
Fingers slippery with fear.
He spoke of water:
His thirst for God quenched mine.
In my joy I forgot his drink,
dropped my bucket on the parched earth and ran home.
Now, seeing him there, poured out like water,
I regret not doing him that small kindness.
It is Finished
Jesus said, ‘It’s done…complete. John 19:30, The Message.
Dread visited my sleep for years, sticking its tongue out,
waking me chilled,
premonitions of death and hell.
No one could bear such a weight!
yet I was called to bear it:
every curse, every act of betrayal and lust
every idolatry, every murder of innocence
until God, sickened,
turned away from me.
I drank the cup of scorpions, refusing nothing.
Now it’s done; no loose ends
no unfinished business.
No mother exhausted from her labour
ever birthed such perfect joy.
A Prayer for Easter’s Song and Dance
Loving God, in whom is heaven
above all days
when we can put on our dancing shoes
and turn the music up
and free our tongues
to sing the Hallelujah chorus
and Sunshine of your love
loud enough to shake the walls
of this joint
the walls of the universe
to wake the dead
from the warm earth
from which swells the silent choir
of bud and flower
which rise and open
in riotous welcome
to our dear friend and brother
The tender shoots
grow green and wild
in the grace
of this day
and its Lent-ending rains
on which our very lives depend
O gardener of our souls
From the long months
of being knit together
in the darkness
of our mother’s womb
through all the planting
of our days
until the moment when
our bones return
we never stop needing
the gentle touch
of the hands that made us
to break through the soil
of our various deaths
whatever the weather
to never cease
from the earth in which we are rooted
to where the sun is
or bright in the sky
to never stop
the waters that fall and flow
and cleanse and baptize
O holy one
that is your spirit
putting the spring in our step
Deo Jesu Spiritus
forgive the pidgin
and let’s party
Lower the needle
set it down
on the long-playing record
of events in our lives
the gospel recitals
of our earthly existence
and show us the brilliant, new moves
you picked up
Lord of our limbs
lead us in the dance
that began at the dawn of Creation
and tore up the floor
when the rock learned to roll
About the poets: David Lyle Jeffrey is a Canadian religion and literature scholar emeritus based at Baylor University in Texas. Marianne Jones is a writer in Thunder Bay, Ont. Sarah Klassen is a poet and fiction writer in Winnipeg. Margo Swiss taught humanities and creative writing at York University. Her poem here is from The Hatching of the Heart (Cascade, 2015). John Terpstra is a poet in Hamilton, Ont. His poem here is from Wild Hope: Prayers & Poems (St Thomas Poetry Series, 2020). Mary Willis is a writer in London, Ont. Her poem here is from the anthology In a Strange Land (Wipf & Stock, 2019).
Suggestions or submissions for Easter 2022 are welcome. And don't miss Dipping a toe into poetry, a shortlist of recommendations published at the end of our Easter 2020 article Exploring the mystery through words.