Poems by contemporary Canadian poets. Continuing an annual tradition at Faith Today.
More Easter poems
An online supplement of contemporary Canadian poetry, as promised in our Mar/Apr 2022 issue.
A Prayer for Greening
All you dead and buried,
wake up! Sing!
Your dew is morning dew
catching the first rays of sun,
The earth bursting with life,
giving birth to the dead.
Isaiah 26:19 MSG
If I could, I'd wrap us
in a covering
of stars. I want to shelter
all our grief—look how long dead
If I could, I'd swallow
every word I said
or didn’t say, and you might rise then
lightly into sky. Do you remember,
love, the way we soared?
Days are painted
monochrome. So much
is buried under heavy snow. Come, Lord
of thaw and xylem flow. Come bud.
Come bloom. Come honey bee.
Light falls on the golden arches, lids of garbage bins,
veiled faces of commuters waiting for the bus.
In the ICU, shadows fall and shift. A frazzled doctor
looks for signs: a heart beat; a trace of breath.
The bud of a tulip has emerged finally, fully
from the dry bulb I buried in autumn.
Inside the bud, yellow petals are preparing
to unfold like the wings of an angel. A shadow
cast by a cross on that hill beyond the city
is proof: the sun has risen.
Treasure hunt, 2022
Because we can’t trust the weather we’ll hide
the eggs in the house, between sofa cushions,
behind a laptop, inside the winter boots
we’ll need if there’s another flood.
We would, if we dared, name the treats we hide
for qualities like reconciliation, better weather, health,
and hope each one is found before the cat comes creeping
or someone sits and squashes them.
Our kids are bored with online learning,
Zoom Sunday school and birthday parties. Rain days.
We’ll make them turn the TV off, get off the couch
and scramble for their decorated eggs
while we sip morning coffee. The sun will rise
like a golden egg from its hiding place
behind that hill. It will shine on empty crosses
and flood the empty tomb with light.
Last night constellations were clearer
than glowing imprints or snow angels
and this morning the forsythia’s buds
look larger, like sealed scrolls that hide
gold things growing inside.
Soon summer will take our world
with ease of rivers, and everywhere
flowers will drop anchor beside each other
but before that I need
to close my eyes to read
a mystery, Jesus Christ,
the gift sown deeply once
yet unwrapped again and again.
To Everything a Season
DAVID LYLE JEFFREY
Among the pleasures of autumn, I count
Splitting and stacking firewood in ricks;
Raking leaves, maple and oak, which mount
In heaps for children to leap and laugh; and even tricks
Of squirrels to rob me of pecans they have found
Green in the tree, before they fall to ground.
Yet I am charmed still more by a spectral sound
Of snow geese, far above in lofty chorus,
So high to me invisible. Year after year I have found
Their marking of the waning season for us
As lovely as the changing hues of leaves--
October’s blossoms, dancing in the breeze.
The world they leave behind, below, shall yield to snow,
Surrender all. Yet they’ll pass by in spring, I know.
For now, though bitter winter winds may blow,
Their cries will echo while I watch the embers glow,
Till one fine morning, far above the budding trees
Their song itself will reach me, gardening, happy on my knees.
DAVID LYLE JEFFREY
Just where the old split-rail graveyard fence
Enters a thicket hedge, wild plum and cherries,
There grows a vine through summer, secret, hence
Only with frost and fallen leaves appear its berries,
Orange shells, split, show ripe red seeds, for birds
A winter harvest visible through snow and sweet,
For humans toxic, to the young fatal. No words
Appear to warn a child away, to say ‘don’t eat!’
And yet our mothers sent us out to gather sprays,
Décor for the mantle, for tables at Thanksgiving.
Lovely, but dangerous, they became mainstays
Of festal mood and cheer, a sign among the living:
Though winter may be hard, its blizzards unforgiving,
There’s provision for all creatures yet, bread and beauty giving.
Arc of the Covenants
DAVID LYLE JEFFREY
Arca, just a box, but large enough to hold
The seeds of life within its wood.
Another, smaller box would hence enfold
The words for life, which long have stood
The storms and ravages of time.
Though both are lost, what they once held
Endures, breathes yet, engenders life.
The arc which shone and promise spelled
Returns despite our ceaseless strife
And still appears above, a sign.
The Architect of Word and Works presides.
While ages come and go, he turns his scroll
To yet another place; as one more life subsides
Into the great abyss, as epochs roil and roll,
Provides another marker, casts his line.
For every life, within his Law or not,
There is a limit set; measurements made
Before our ken establish every lot,
Each mortal span. Thus, as one still stayed
Upon his Word, a lesser box is coming – mine.
Yet this too, by his grace is transit.
For those who in his promise trust
Are bound for life that overflows it;
Though darkness fall, frail flesh must
Then be raised: completing his design.
Quaecumque Sunt Vera
DAVID LYLE JEFFREY
Whatsoever things are true—though some find nonesuch,
Whatever honorable— ask not of elites or noble rank,
Whatever just—look not to lawyers, nor judges much,
Whatever pure—find if you can and then God thank
Who made all things beautiful—praise him to the end;
Whoever proves most gracious, choose him for your friend.
Rejoice always, even when hope seems lost,
And in your gentleness, as the Apostle says, let
Gratitude be your reason. Don’t overcount the cost,
But be content to trust in God. With his peace set
Deep in your mind, despite much outward strife
you’ll never be dismayed, or lose your joy of life.
Those who nothing of your calm now share will thereby see
Something beyond their ken, that nonetheless may be
– also for them.
Christmas Eve, 2021
(Isaiah 9: 2-7)
DAVID LYLE JEFFREY
Deepest down dark doubts, no daybreak shows, and yet a rooster crows.
Dull despair with lists of failures skirts the pit, may even flirt with death,
And yet a candle burns. Somewhere somehow someone knows
That light is coming, that healing, hope, new life and breath
Shall raise up scattered, broken bones. Though no one lives
Without some slender gleam, some hint of morning light
Beyond the bleak and fitful shades of night, one who gives
Another day a chance shall find that dawn has pierced the night.
For those who dwell in darkness drear, clear light now shines,
For those who wander, lost in wilderness within, a path appears;
It leads to stable straw, the odor of manure. Humility refines
Our sense of worth; we come to see at last above our fears
The face of Love. Wonderful his counsel, marvelous his might:
Where feeble fathers fail, his perfect peace portends true Light.
Lent into Easter, again
KATE MARSHALL FLAHERTY
Today, I learned the word “Lent”
comes from the Celtic word “Spring”—
what a shock!
O fresh-gushed season
of muck and mess—
spell of icicles and slush—
what a stretch of melting!
O in-between time,
when purple-pink crocuses
hermit themselves, genuflect
beneath snow-tamped earth,
praying silent bulb prayers
O messy month of transition—
when caked mud in sole-ruts
hardens and cracks,
O time of freeze and thaw—
when some days, sun oozes sap
from tree-cuts in maple trunks,
wood scabs heal the wounds
O spontaneous spring,
your V-birds come and go,
flying as one, yet always
towards the sun—
change the frozen landscape,
crisping, then softening
root and forced bulb alike—
you distil ice to reflective pools
O surprising spring,
some days your winds make me bow—
but today your radiant warmth
penetrates my chest,
invites me to open my coat
And their words seemed to them like idle tales,
and they did not believe them.
It doesn’t matter how long
we follow an earthbound idea.
It will never become a bird or a star
or even rain falling on a garden.
It can lead us toward a dry garden
as it did Peter and John, racing to reverse time,
while ahead, a shower tilts
like a tall tale, an angel on watchtower stilts.
We’ll have to stoop before we cross
the finish line and enter absence, witness
the cloth lying empty. We’ll grasp an idea
we didn’t put there, the shape of breath,
the Word unfolding into grace,
new life handed down for us to wear.
Sitting On A Stone
Angels expect to happen what we've been told
will happen unlike you or that old man
overawed by incense & Gabriel's presence
How can this be done?
when told in their old age
he & his wife would have a son Why
shouldn't the archangel strike him dumb?
Herod was worse hammered against
what Micah foretold brought his shocking
sceptre down on every baby's head
& then even the fishermen
questioned among themselves
what they'd been clearly shown
So try not to hold my mocking tone
against me when I said Why
do you seek the living among the dead?
as I sat on that rolled-away stone
About the poets: Lesley-Anne Evans is a B.C. poet who was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, and grew up in Toronto. David Lyle Jeffrey is a Canadian religion and literature scholar emeritus based at Baylor University in Texas. Kate Marshall Flaherty is a poet, editor and playwright in Toronto. D.S. Martin of Brampton, Ont., is poet-in-residence at McMaster Divinity College. His poem first appeared in Christian Century and is from his new book Angelicus. Mary Willis is a writer in London, Ont.
Suggestions or submissions for Easter 2023 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.