Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Poetry Wednesday, Vol. 36

Seven Stanzas at Easter
John Updike

Make no mistake: if He rose at all
it was as His body;
if the cells' dissolution did not reverse, the molecules
reknit, the amino acids rekindle,
the Church will fall.

It was not as the flowers,
each soft Spring recurrent;
it was not as His Spirit in the mouths and fuddled
eyes of the eleven apostles;
it was as His flesh: ours.

The same hinged thumbs and toes,
the same valved heart
that - pierced - died, withered, paused, and then
regathered out of enduring Might
new strength to enclose.

Let us not mock God with metaphor,
analogy, sidestepping, transcendence;
making of the event a parable, a sign painted in the
faded credulity of earlier ages:
let us walk through the door.

The stone is rolled back, not papier-mache',
not stone in a story,
but the vast rock of materiality that in the slow
grinding of time will eclipse for each of us
the wide light of day.

And if we have an angel at the tomb,
make it a real angel,
weighty with Max Planck's quanta, vivid with hair,
opaque in the dawn light, robed in real linen
spun on a definite loom.

Let us not seek to make it less monstrous,
for our own convenience, our own sense of beauty,
lest, awakened in one unthinkable hour, we are
embarrassed by the miracle,
and crushed by remonstrance.


Molly Sabourin said...

This is quite powerful, Kris. I like, very much, that is seeks not to sentimentalize the crucifixion and Resurrection, not to "make sense" of it in a way that we, as mere sinful mortals, can absorb. Belief, faith, is not for the faint of heart. That first stanza really got me. The Church literally stands (exists) around this mind-blowing Mystery of Jesus, the son of God/God, Himself, taking on human flesh, being brutally crucified, buried ("Trampling down death by death") and then rising, not metaphorically but actually, from the dead. It's crazy, right, when you really think about it? And yet, there it is, my entire life hinges on it. And then we are asked to believe this boldly, risking our lives and reputations for the sake of the cross. May I never "be embarrassed the miracle."

Thanks for posting this! It (obviously) got me thinking this morning - sorry for rambling on.

Kris Livovich said...

the first stanza is the whole reason I posted this poem. And you can ramble anytime!

amber said...

Love it! Love it! Love it! (excuse my Orthodox tendency toward three)

Stanza 5 is my favorite: "The stone is rolled back, not papier-maché / not stone in a story, / but the vast rock of materiality that in the slow / grinding of time will eclipse for each of us / the wide light of day."

Real death, real life. And not just a story.

Thank you!

Jenny said...


This is such a beautiful poem. I love how concrete it is, how you can feel his very real death through it. I especially love the last line, about how we must try to grasp this now so that we won't be crushed by the miracle.