Nails

There were three

To be killed

That day.

Two were thieves,

Strong young men,

Their lives to be wasted

For their crime.

They wailed,

Writhed, sobbed,

Flailing away

Their final moments

Of movement.

It took four soldiers

To hold them

To their crosses

As the hammering began,

The sturdy masonry nails

Driven

Through resistant flesh,

Through inhuman screams,

To their wooden homes.

 

The third man

Was a prophet,

So they say,

A Messiah even,

Yet he did not

Call on God

To intercede,

To save him

From this pitiable end,

This traitor’s death.

He undressed quietly,

Lay down, sad-eyed,

On his recumbent cross,

Only recoiling

As his flogged back

Met rough, hastily cut wood.

 

He was mine to nail.

I chose the sharpest points,

Placed them with care,

Feeling somehow

His courage deserved reward.

Against habit, training,

Professional detachment,

I looked at him,

Met his dark eyes,

Fear-filled yet calm,

Saw his slightest nod.

I took a breath,

My mallet rose

And fell.

He gasped,

Flinched,

Then held himself

Still

As my hammer-blows

Pinned him

To his death.

 

Slowly the three crosses,

Their agonised burdens,

Were levered

Upright,

Away from cool earth

Into the baking, glaring day.

The preacher,

Pale beneath his tan,

Forced words

From his suffocation:

“Father, forgive them,

They know not

What they do.”

And I, stern soldier,

Practised executioner,

Turned away

And wept.

 

SIA 9 iv 2014

 

The cloak

In the grey dawn

They surged through the gates,

Eager

For the Passover treat,

The annual redemption

Of a chosen one

By their appointed lord.

 

Tired Pilate,

His shoulders bowed,

Wearied, weighed

By justice

And conscience,

The chief priests

Puffed out with righteousness

Like challenged cockerels,

And between them

The still figure

Of the preacher,

Calm, accepting,

Modest

Amid the grandeur

In his shabby robe.

 

They called him King,

King of the Jews,

Passed his condemnation

Back and forward

Like an unwanted card,

Until planted men,

Priests’ friends,

Scribes’ cousins,

Pliable hangers on,

Coaxed the crowd

To bloodlust.

 

They howled

“Crucify him!”

Baying this blameless man

To traitor’s agony,

Their prize

Redemption and liberty

For blood-soaked rebel Barabbas.

 

The Romans took him,

Flogged him

Just enough for blood,

Little enough for cross-bearing.

From some dusty chest

Soldiers pulled an old cloak,

Tyrian-dyed,

Forced

Crown and sceptre

Of thorn and reed

Upon him,

Spat, mocked,

Knelt

In this king’s

One earthly homage.

 

Dripping blood

He stepped out

In his imperial purple

Into the morning sun.

The worn cloak,

Given new life

By light,

Shone amethyst

About this battered king,

Transfigured in the dawn.

 

SIA 8-9 iv 2014

The miracle

The crowd swirled

Around the shabby preacher,

His robes dusty, much mended,

His sandals worn

By miles on stony roads.

We pushed forwards,

Seeking to breathe his air,

Hear his compelling voice

Speak of hope,

Of justice,

Of God’s unfailing love,

To touch this prophet,

Know him real.

 

The sick, deformed,

Possessed

Crept closer

Through small ebbs

As the crowd

Flinched away

To avoid defilement.

 

We pressed closer,

Strengthened by desperation,

By hope of another miracle,

The dream that it could happen

To us.

We mobbed around him,

Shoving and clamouring,

Like beggars

For the last coin.

 

His quiet voice

Cut short our scramble,

Our pleadings,

Stilled our pawing hands,

Our desperation.

“Who touched me?”

His friend protested,

Someone laughed,

But he insisted.

 

A ragged woman

Fell before him,

Confessed

Her twelve-year bleeding,

Her foulness,

Her outcast life,

Her clutch at his robe

A final act of hope.

She looked up at him,

Huge-eyed

With astonishment,

Devotion,

Said she was healed,

And wept.

 

He smiled then,

With inexpressible love,

Love older than stars,

With a child’s spontaneous joy,

With a mother’s tenderness.

“Daughter,

Your faith has healed you.

Go in peace.”

 

Later, I hobbled home,

Unhealed,

My body unchanged,

But my heart transformed,

My soul overwhelmed

By the preacher’s smile,

Knowing my miracle was harder:

To make that smile,

That moment,

Sustain a lifetime.

 

SIA 5 iv 2014