Unless I See: After Caravaggio’s “Incredulity of Saint Thomas”

No need to touch the scars;
Caravaggio got that detail wrong.
The sheer force of His presence made Thomas crumple,
doubt ceasing where belief gained life,
the parched taste, hesitant like salt, exultant like wine,
as loosened lips croaked,
My Lord and my God.

Yet I am comforted to see
both the outstretched hand and
the companions’ fingers lifting his.
I cannot tell if, like Thomas,
I could simply stop doubting and believe at such a sight,
but, held up by the weathered,
briny hands of those who’ve seen with me,
I, like him, can lift a wrinkled brow in faith.

They knew Him too at breakfast

where, on the shore, He had
already assembled, as a table,
prepared for expected guests,
a charcoal fire, some fish laid out,
and, being himself the bread,
a loaf laid for good measure.

No need, of course, for the fish they brought.
No need, either, for that excess in their boats.
To feed seven mouths plus His,
that net-bursting horn of plenty was,
as old Judas, wilting, would have had them know,
not quite au fait.

Yet fitting – that He who made Leviathan solely to frolic
should choose to play with the resources of Galilee
to make much of these staples,
to invite, to delight,
and in the olive branch of this table set
in the presence of friends and enemies

to ask, as the mercy-cup overflowed in the background,
Simon, do you love me?

Resurrection Day

Nothing should compare to this:
our singularity that, with earthquake force,
shakes stones, baffles Rome, turns
the mourners from the tomb with lightning conviction.

And day on day this truth remains,
though I have dishes to wash
and the ever-turning of the present
makes me more a sullen Peter returning to his net

than a Mary, fleeing the dead, for dear life –
yes, for Life
had said her name and was here.

If Ye Love Me

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:
indignant, swinging
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.

Pass Through the Waters

Pilgrims, we return again to Jordan
where the old familiar waters flow;
As always we face the choice to enter,
awash in what we do not know.

Familiar the doubt, uncertain the prospect:
the promise declares like a quaking in sky,
yet how it transpires, our toes must encounter
and nothing ensures that our feet will stay dry,

only a dove and the voice of a father
and his story the same – ever ever.

Epiphany: Unexpected Myrrh

all those from Sheba shall come. They shall bring gold and frankincense, and shall bring good news, the praises of the Lord.
(Isaiah 60:6b)

The promise shines bright,
but not all have eyes to see.
Many search elsewhere, dismissive of their quest
for nothing great comes from Palestine.
Preferring the grandeur of temple and palace courts,
they snub noses at a people on their knees
and follow other stars for other fates.

Yet to those who’ve been waiting,
those willing to hoist saddle and trudge desert sands,
the movement of stars matches movements in hearts
and the star points to what they are seeking.
Only this is unexpected: not only
do they bring the ointment of kings
and the gold that’s surely fit for him
but a resin that embalms when bodies expire,
a sign that the child-king lives here to die.
Knees bow before this acceptance of fate
while proud knees are buckled at the truth.
Only when it humbles will it save.

Christmas 12: Seen (Nathanael’s Story)

through the birth of Immanuel…
(From the Collect of the Day)

He saw me by the fig-tree,
desiring yet resisting,
drawn to know the truth of things
yet not looking for it there.

He heard dismissal from my lips,
saw straight into the heart of things,
called to life the truth in me;
I cannot walk away.

That God Himself should take our scum,
that He should walk right here and see –
nothing else but this remains:
I must follow in His way.