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?
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.
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.
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.
While he clung to Peter and John, all the people, utterly astounded, ran together to them in the portico called Solomon’s…
Fear, perhaps. The crowd, after all,
lunged and lurched about,
amazed hands raised,
how might this seem
to eyes which had beheld, rejected,
hands which had held and seized.
Too much too soon;
the world had not the ready hearts
it took to take such miracles to heart…
Clung, perhaps, to wait out the storm,
to see how would the crowd change shape,
and crowd and cloud the truth around him.
Clung, perhaps, for refuge.
Or did he cling as we must cling?
Cling as those before had failed.
Every day, the servant said,
I stood and taught, and never did
you seize me then. The failure spoke
much more than all their loud deeds could:
to behold, daily, yet not take hold,
to have in reach, yet never clutch,
to see open hands, yet never grip.
Now the servant’s servants stood
and he must cling – for life, for safety –
all this – yes –
joy: at strength in deadened limbs;
and power: for greater things would soon be done;
and trust: above all, trust. The Crucified
had power still!
No silver, no gold in hand; only the Name.
And to that Name he clung.
What warmth I hide in will soon grow cold.
All Peter’s false fires, Adam’s cloak of leaves,
will burn out, fade, and leave nakedness in ash.
Clothe me. My shame is always before me.
Nothing hides from Your sight
what should be white, yet’s stained like blood.
O God. I stand –
You are enough. You are enough.