My Lord, What a Morning

by Marianne Peel

“Let my arms be as your branches
  yours the song that must be sung…”
                                                     from Crux Fidelis

Three days ago, I inhaled the incense of the third hour,
stoked myself up like a fire hungry for kindling wood.
And I approached with a crooked knee,
genuflected,
and touched the wood of the cross.

I wait, lingering a moment to hear 
the thunder and the darkness,
the purple shrouded afternoons of my childhood Good Fridays.
There is only the light of day,
any day, coming through the glass that opens onto the street. 

The person before me kissed the wood.
I have never kissed anyone
without first exploring the hand,
the open palm, the spaces in between.
Running my fingers over closed eyes and open lips,

listening for a sigh or a sobbing
putting hand to cheek, trying to ferret out what is beneath
the surface, beneath these vulnerable parts
we share, touching these private places    
with so few over a lifetime.

I remember Michelangelo’s Pieta
knowing that there is a worn place an indentation
in the feet of his grieving mother.
A place where lips have been,
where pilgrims and penitents have placed

a gentle kiss over hundreds of years.
I hesitate to kiss the feet of Jesus.
Rather offer comfort to the living, I think.
Wipe the tears from Mary’s face.
Exchange mother-knowing looks with our eyes

realizing we both knew our children,
intimately and profoundly
before they ever emerged into the light.
I want to clasp her hands
not wanting to let go.

I long to become a carved shadow
in this tableau frozen in marble
in the sanctuary of this stone.
Granting solace to this mother
draped in the spiritless shell of her son. 

These planks, the starkness of wood on wood.
This is a place for wounds
and a place for healing.  
Time disappears
and I offer this carpenter, this man of Nazareth,

a ladle of the last wine 
served at the wedding at Cana.
Breathing, vibrant red wine
born of the finest grapes.  
This wine, usually served first

when guests are critical, analyzing.
This fruit of the vine on their celebrating tongues
judging the generosity of their host.
Later, they are content to swill the runt of the harvest,
once inebriation steals their senses.

On rocky ground, at the foot of this place of the skull,
I push away the torn sponge, the sharpened stick, the liquid gall.
Instead, I scratch my way to the vortex of the cross,
clawing splinters beneath my nails,
to lift me to his face.

And it is here that I offer this simple ladle
filled with moist wine, to drink in his time, in measured sips.
I hold his cheek in my hand, wiping his chin between drinks,
letting his head rest
in the cradle of my hand. 

I remember his hands creating tables, benches,
carving wooden structures that bring people together
to laugh, to share, to break bread.
This cross—a perverse use of wood—
these crucifying beams.

Surely this carpenter would have rejected this wood.
But like the master craftsman he is, he works
with what he is given.
This tree becomes the cornerstone,
the table offering an eternal banquet.

The finest of living wine and bread.
Simply for coming to the table 
with an open and pure heart.

And so now, in my kneeling, I kiss the wood
knowing my lips are soundless,
swollen shut with a sadness 
and a gratefulness
that has no voice

And the only song I can sing
speaks softly and silently
as I tenderly kiss
the wood, his hands, his feet, 
his forever outstretched arms.  

A middle/high school English teacher for 32 years, Marianne Peel now nurtures her own creativity. She spent three summers teaching in China; received Fulbright Awards to Nepal and Turkey. Marianne’s poetry appears in Muddy River Review, Jelly Bucket, Comstock Review, among others. Her debut collection, No Distance Between Us, was published by Shadelandhouse Modern Press in 2021.

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