Murder on the Hill

Blood soaks porous earth, staining rocks,
as I watch without wisdom the unfolding
of bewildering drama before my travel weary eyes.
I am a stranger amongst a crowd of bearded faces
of anger and weird delight, women beating
their breasts with hopeless hands, and wailing
with the sound of a thousand sirens.

Somewhere in the front soldiers inflict wounds
on the naked body of a man hanging
on a tree. As he grimaces, I hear the laughter
of spirits, the sky grows sad and day quickly thickens
into darkness… What has he done, I enquire
from pallid faces around me. Encountering indifference,
I persist, why is he pierced, flogged… An old man
wearing costly robes, his eyes heavy with creeds, answered
in a voice as certain and quiet as the entry of death:
he claims to be God… and slowly pointing a wrinkled finger
at him bleeding, whispered, see for yourself young one,
the shameful exit of the helpless God.

I looked at him who was hanging on the tree
and saw nothing beautiful in him. My heart suddenly
hates him with the sharpness of daggers
as I approved the slaughter before me. Walking
to the place where he was shamed, the ghosts
of my buried childhood and spirits of my tormented past
emerging out of the boiling cauldron of my heart,
I spat at his unguarded face. Tears streaming from his eyes,
he spoke with the gentleness of flapping doves’ wings,
child, ages before you stood before this bloodied man,
I knew you…before you learnt the art of hating
at the college of trauma, I loved you…before galaxies
were birthed and the first signs of life appeared
on your planet of tragic beauty, I have already engraved
your name on the tablet of my heart…come, kneel
before my nakedness, read my pages, your eyes
will be opened to the chapters of grace…

Anguish grips my soul, my flesh turns to leather, and I hear
him utter strange words of forgiveness and completion,
a soldier raises his spear and silence seizes the hill.
Thick cloaks of darkness smother earth, rocks tremble
and as screams of inconsolable women tear the silence
into innumerable shreds, I find myself clinging
to the injured legs of the man murdered on the tree.

Oil painting, study for The Crucifixion, by Thomas Eakins, 1880.

One of my most spiritual poems. Wrote this in a time of spiritual crossroads and emotional crisis some years back.


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