My Lord, What a Morning
“Let my arms be as your branches
yours the song that must be sung…”
-from Crux Fidelis
Three days ago I inhaled the incense of the third hour,
stoked myself up like a fire hungry for kindling wood.
And I approached with crooked knee,
and touched the wood of the cross.
lingering a moment to hear the thunder and the darkness,
the purple shrouded afternoons of my childhood Good Fridays.
There is only the light of day
any day coming through the glass that opens onto the street.
The person before me kissed the wood.
I have never kissed anyone
without first exploring the hand,
the open palm, the spaces in between.
Running my fingers over closed eyes and open lips,
listening for a sigh or a sobbing
putting hand to cheek trying to ferret out what is beneath
the surface, beneath these vulnerable parts
we share touching these private places
with so few over a lifetime.
I remember Michelangelo’s Pieta
knowing that there is a worn place an indentation
in the feet of his grieving mother.
A place where lips have been,
where pilgrims and penitents have placed
a gentle kiss over hundreds of years.
I hesitate to kiss the feet of Jesus.
Rather offer comfort to the living, I think.
Wipe the tears from Mary’s face.
Exchange mother-knowing looks with our eyes
realizing we both knew our children
intimately and profoundly
before they ever emerged into the light.
I want to clasp her hands
not wanting to let go.
I long to become a carved shadow
in this tableau frozen in marble
in the sanctuary of this stone.
Granting solace to this mother
draped in the spiritless shell of her son.
These planks the starkness of wood on wood.
This is a place for wounds
and a place for healing.
and I offer this carpenter this man of Nazareth
a ladle of the last wine
served at the wedding at Canaan.
Breathing, vibrant red wine
born of the finest grapes.
This wine, usually served first
when guests are critical, analyzing.
This fruit of the vine on their celebrating tongues
judging the generosity of their host.
Later, they are content to swill the runt of the harvest,
once inebriation steals their senses.
On rocky ground, at the foot of this place of the skull,
I push away the torn sponge, the sharpened stick, the liquid gall.
Instead, I scratch my way to the vortex of the cross,
clawing splinters beneath my nails
to lift me to his face.
And it is here that I offer this simple ladle
filled with moist wine, to drink in his time, in measured sips.
I hold his cheek in my hand wiping his chin between drinks
letting his head rest
in the cradle of my hand.
I remember his hands creating tables, benches,
carving wooden structures that bring people together
to laugh, to share, to break bread.
This cross a perverse use of wood
these crucifying beams.
Surely this carpenter would have rejected this wood.
But like the master craftsman he is, he works
with what he is given.
This tree becomes the cornerstone,
the table offering an eternal banquet.
The finest of living wine and bread.
Simply for coming to the table with an open and pure heart.
And so now, in my kneeling, I kiss the wood
knowing my lips are soundless
swollen shut with a sadness
and a gratefulness
that has no voice
And the only song I can sing
speaks softly and silently
as I tenderly kiss
the wood, his hands, his feet,
his forever outstretched arms.
Gifts of the Holy Spirt
for Allegra, on her Baptism
I wish you wisdom
deep, like ancient rivers,
fluid and flowing
longer than time itself
rooted in movement
the wisdom that reaches
deep into the earth, like growing trees,
like the fingers of the Creator God
in the soil of our lives.
I wish you understanding,
the compassion that transforms you
from acquaintance to friend
a sincerity of spirt
that shines through your eyes,
knowing you can empathize,
those you know
with a genuine tenderness.
I wish you good judgement
fine-tuned like a violin
or a cello,
a discerning ear
to know right paths
difficult paths, sometimes,
knowing your free will
is a gift from God
to be handled with gentleness.
I wish you courage
to choose overgrown paths,
paths not commonly taken.
Like Robert Frost
and Henry David Thoreau,
I hope your choosing the lesser taken road
gives you a life filled with adventure,
a life that makes all the difference.
I wish you knowledge,
more than the miniscule facts memorized for a test
Something deeper, more permanent.
The knowledge of connecting to the noble minds of the world
and the wisdom that emerges from living well and full.
that grass roots, homespun knowledge,
the knowing, like Gandhi, that taking time
to spin your own cotton
can change the face of the universe for all eternity.
I wish you love,
whether you are reading a book
wiggling your toes in the sand on a beach
or soaring up and down roller coaster tracks.
I wish you that peace within
knowing you are loved
and capable of moving lives
with the love you have to give.
I wish you reverence for God
echoed in a thousand times thankfulness
as you move through your life, your days.
The same thankfulness of the people of Guatemala
as they sing thanks praises to their God,
seeking and seeing joy, even in the heart of despair.
I wish you and awesome knowing
that your life, day and night
will be devoted to ferreting out the divine within.
I wish you the mind of Jesus,
the gentle spirit of a person unafraid
to speak her mind and reveal her heart.
A person who embraced
even the seemingly unembraceable
and transformed lives
with his touch,
I wish you eyes
that are willing to bear sorrows and burdens
but are also soft enough
to comfort a hurting friend.
I wish you hands
that reach out more often than in,
that aren’t afraid to touch and to hold securely.
To know, as the Nigerian proverb says,
that we must embrace true friends with both hands.
I wish you feet
that are bold and daring, unafraid to risk.
Stepping forward with conviction,
knowing that this life is truly a journey,
not a destination.
I wish you the blessed assurance
that gentle spirits walk with you always
and that the mind of Jesus is yours,
simply for the asking…
After having taught middle and high school English for 32 years, Marianne is now nurturing her own creative spirit. Retired from the classroom, she occasionally engages in Field Instructor work with various universities, supervising education interns in the classroom. Marianne has also taught classes in Social Coaching for autistic adults. Further, she has spent three summers in Guizhou Province, teaching best practices to teachers in China. She has also received Fulbright-Hays Awards to Nepal (2003) and Turkey (2009). Marianne was recently a finalist in the Wheelbarrow Poetry Prize at Michigan State University. She also won the Poetry Prize and the Genre Prize at Jelly Bucket Literary Magazine, receiving a Summer Residency Award at Eastern Kentucky University (2017). Marianne participated in Marge Piercy’s Juried Intensive Poetry Workshop (2016) as well as Anita Skeen’s Narrative Poetry Workshop at Georgia O’Keefe’s Ghost Ranch in New Mexico. Further, Marianne received First Place Poetry Prize with ESME (Empowering Solo Moms Everywhere). Marianne’s poetry appears in Muddy River Poetry Review, Belle Reve Literary Journal, Jelly Bucket Literary Journal, EastLit Magazine, among others. She has a collection of poetry forthcoming in 2019 from Shadelandhouse Modern Press.