They shall not live who have not tasted death. They only sing who are struck dumb by God. (Joyce Kilmer, “Poets”)
And so Zechariah became one of the poets, hymning the God of Israel with new voice, for those who have most wept will most rejoice, while others full of grace who did not know it could never pen a hymn if life depended. Grace rarely makes such strict demands of us; the sweetest song can fall without a fuss straight on a childless priest, his life upended with the hope of joy, while the one with seven sons goes home to richest blessing without song. The one struck dumb will pen an epic long before the the news can reach the minstrel’s ear, and grace will always find alert the ones who’ve lost their voice and now have ears to hear.
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.
And immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue loosed, and he spoke, blessing God.
No good unless used for you:
only death, only a swallowing tomb.
No sweet grapes from a rotten vine;
no figs budding from a cursed tree.
When speaking, we curse; when silent, bones waste…
Until the words, He is risen. Why seek the living among these yawning tombs?
Run. Tell the mourners.
Doubt has died.
This tongue has life to speak.