The Ageless Kingdom (For Oswald, King and Martyr)

Where others had forsaken heaven’s king
on gaining earthly kingdoms or had fled
further into their monastic realm,
Oswald, son of Aethelfrith, though gaining lands
that reached out far and wide, did not forget
the kingdom that no human eye could see.

And one day, so Bede relates, he sat
at table with a silver dish full of dainties
and hearing of the many needy ones
around and begging in the streets for alms,
gave orders for the meat to be cut up
and spread out far and wide among them all.

A bishop sitting then with him laid hold
of his right hand, so Bede says, and blessed
that hand that it might never age or wither.
The story goes that when he died
Oswald’s hand remained yet uncorrupted;
whether true or not, we cannot tell,

Nor can we know for sure if in the field
where Oswald was struck down by pagan kings
infirm men and cattle were there healed.
Our eyes too quickly look for human signs
of greatness, fall in traps like all the kings
who bowed to human lords before they could

Hold in their minds what only faith could see:
the kingdom without border and without
the signs of death or age, and spanning all
human ages and all lands on earth,
the kingdom which King Oswald, rare among
earthly rulers, bowed to as he reigned.

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