So many ways to wash feet:
the posture, not the precise nature of the action, matters – poised
at ground level, familiar with the dust
and grime of the day’s streets,
outer garments shed to throw off all show,
the creak in the knees accompanying the splash
and the mess of the self washing off in the bowl.
So many ways, yet I
am more comfortable to be Peter:
between pride and gung-ho humility,
reserved and haughty in equal measure,
more at home with excuses
than the flagrant shame of love.
If I would be a disciple, I need only start
with the crick in these old, ossified joints
as I teach them to get love’s job done.
Lent ends with a mirror:
I am the mocker, the spitter, the thief.
Like a child resenting their small role in the pageant,
I greet grace with a petulant, What about me?
This is me.
My role is the soldier with the reed and the crown,
the voice crying, Crucify! and, Messiah, come down.
I’m Judas and Pilate, am Herod, am the priests;
am the nails in the feet and the spear in the side,
am the object of all mercy’s most prodigal gifts,
am the face of Christ shining in victory.
Like Peter, I am thrown.
The new commandment is old – older than water –
but never does it feel
old when it knocks where the heart’s most calloused,
with desert-worn feet, soles encased
in grime and travail.
Water washes, but the command penetrates.
And the action – the knees bent, the teacher’s degradation –
gives flesh to the mandate’s pointed bone,
flesh that will be pierced. May I be pierced.
I need more than water;
I need chisel to my stone.
I have been there in the festal throng,
the waving of palms,
the shouting of Psalms:
Hosanna – the highest – hosanna.
And I have felt the surge of pride
to see my king, as prophesied,
come in, triumphantly, astride
his Zechariah-steed, and I
confess that I have hoped to find
what, in the end, was more than I
had ever bargained for.
I’ve been there, too, by the fireside,
warming my hands and telling lies.
I too have hidden in the night,
afraid of my king’s disgrace.
Messiah: my soul is a fruitless figtree.
When you come to your temple, I will wither
at the sight of your certain summer.
Cast off my false foliage, and let me dwell
in your shade when you return.
What have I done with the food you gave me?
The bread of life grows mould where I left it.
The leaven of self sickens and spoils.
Puffed up by bread alone, no Word, I am fat and famished.
In the desert of abundance, Lord have mercy.
All the kingdoms of the world dangle before you.
Only a bend of the knee will give them to you.
I bend at the first offer of reprieve.
Forty days can only show my nest of callow vipers.
In the desert of my failing, Christ have mercy.
You flap your dove’s wings above living water,
Yet I am bent on brackish wastelands.
I draw brine and bile from my spirit’s well.
I vent spleen upon your ever-flowing fountain.
At the oasis of contrition, Lord have mercy.