Copyright 1988, by Sarah Griffin Pemberton
I first should introduce this poem, for those who struggle with the abstract. It is the perspective of Jesus’ mother, agonizing over her Son’s suffering, wishing she could spare Him this agony, as she recalls the pain of childbirth, and contrasts it with His suffering on the Cross. The surprise is hers on Resurrection Day to learn His suffering was for her and for us.
Breath by agonizing breath,
to bring forth life by stinging death,
amidst my anguished cries (again,
again) through piercing, sword-stabbed pain;
and (Gush!) release the final flood:
Helpless, naked, bathed in blood;
(Sh-h! Hush!) His cries when first
He came and quenched His thirst ~
My infant’s peaceful nursing
But hanging now, His muscles
twist, contort in ripples;
Oh! And how they stretch
with clawing, gnawing bite
of moribund strain;
His heinous thirst, now offered
last suck again
(not like His first!);
but bitter’s the breast of Azrael’s gall
So refused He the sponge’s
Hatred’s screams now greet His shame.
(…Maternal dreams of sharp birthpangs…)
My God-Man-Son endures the stares
(Kings once t’ greet Him,
humble infant, bare)
and flooded, plunged in His bath of blood…
O, Abba, Eloi! Just and good!
it were my pain once more,
as thence my baby’s griefs I bore!
Why must it be His shed blood flowing
drops of Life, His deathground sowing?
Oh, let me, let me bear His sorrow –
life of mine, His for the morrow!
Behold! The evil, sinful wreakage,
poured on Him, like so much garbage!
How canst Thou, His Father, stand
to tolerate Pilate’s death-command?
O, my Son (Whose Life I knew
within my body where You grew)
How gone is Thy authority
that calméd once the wind and sea?
Why still’st Thou not the raging gales
that drove in Thee their rain of nails?
And wherefore silent is Thy tongue,
resembled of the shearéd young
lamb brought before the altar’s knife,
so willingly to give its life
into the butchering hands of priests
for flesh and blood of Passo’er feasts?
And why rebuk’st Thou not the mouths
of Thy accusers? (Liars foul!)
Oh, would that I could stop Thine ears
from brutal floods of mocks and jeers,
and reach to wipe away Thy tears
(much rathering to shed my own)!
Oh, I would steel my will like stone
and draw my cub into my den,
a lioness’ rage, in blood to defend
against the hungry, vicious pack
of wolves now circling to attack…
But angelic myriads couldst Thou beckon
to free Thee hence in but a second!
~ And yet – it seems by choice, Thou stayest
with thieves to hang, despised amidst!
What’s that Thou in Thy suffering sayest?
“Forgive them,” Thou, Thy Father bidd’st?!
What manner Man, in truth art Thou?
(How oft’ have I Thy difference pondered!)
What gloried crown now receives Thy brow?
….So, Thy Spirit gone in God-wrath-thundered.
Thy cry is mine! Thy side, sword-pierced…
Know I mine own heart-break so cursed
(Sword-stabbed heart, clean-through, indeed.)
Repeated labor-pains here now bleed,
and none can stop my sorrow’s flow, no ~
O my Son’s Life! Kill my woe!
Now yet again, I wash my Son
of bloody, sticky, wet (they loathe!)
and wrap Him in His swaddling clothes
to lay again in cold, dark cave
(each haven, of a stranger, gave).
Why keep hay fresh to warm this “manger”?
This time, my Baby’s gentle Head
need pillow not to rest. He’s dead.
+ + +
How dare the lilies bloom ‘afore May!
Know they not my grief this day?
(Must after Sabbath, I’ll return
with myrrh by which My Son might spurn,
however briefly, death’s foul stench.)
Oh, would that I could simply wrench
Him from the gaping, clamping jaws
of that Abaddon’s greedy paws!
Yea, that He who told us sure:
“I am that sweet Life so pure.
Yea, I, the Resurrection promised!”
~spoke thus by that Mouth so honest.
How then didst Thou lose Thy Life
beneath Priest Caiaphas’ dreadful knife?
What joy e’er hence brings me the sun in morning sky,
whose only-Boy-of-God-my-Son in mourning lies
forever? Ah, how long the day of rest-
lessness to wait for just one last
and parting kiss upon His marréd brow!
But who for us will roll the stone,
that we may ‘balm Him in His shroud?
Surely, women not alone ~
but perhaps with godly favor
will the guard regard our plight,
and take us in unto our Savior.
Ah, always loved my Son the sight
of early morning gardens’ glory!
Who could think such death to dwell
amidst such wondrous color bright
of floral gaity, dew-drenched smells,
of perfumes misting on the air?
But what’s this strange and golden Light…
like only such as heaven fair
could ever boast ~ Ah, me! Look! See!
The grave is empty!
Robbed! And that of contents none could want,
save only a bereavéd mother’s heart
would care to haunt…
But there! Could that the robber be?
A ghost? ~ He speaks!
Thou say’st, Sir, my Son’s Word ‘filled
that He should rise, yet three days killed?!
Oh, happy day! My grief relieved!
Now op’ed my eyes, I clearly see:
those sorrows mine
bore He for me!