Noli Me Tangere – a poem by Jennifer Reek

Noli Me Tangere

You know the story:
Mary Magdalene in the garden,
weeping by the tomb
of her lost love.

(Everyone I know calls
Jesus ‘Lord,’ but I can’t.
I don’t know any lords.
I doubt Mary did either.)

Jesus is in the garden,
dead but alive, he calls out to her,
Mary! She doesn’t see a lord.
She thinks he is a gardener.

Artists often depict this scene
with Jesus recoiling,
hand out in protest,
against Mary reaching for him,
as if she is unclean.

I don’t believe it.
I like what Rembrandt does,
his Jesus really is a gardener,
in a broad brimmed hat
and holding a shovel;
with a dagger in his waistband.
The official disciples are off
in the distance, scurrying home,
But Mary is close by, at his feet,
outside the tomb, wide-eyed,
looking up at him, but not reaching.
Jesus is not repulsed
by her, not repulsed by earth.
He looks ready to bring things to life,
including Mary.

I can understand this scene.
I know it. I know what it is
to reach for a loved one
and have him say, don’t touch me!
It is a hard thing to not feel rejection
in that sudden strangeness,
that desire not to be touched
that sometimes arises in those unworldly ones
who are reborn to bring others to life.

.

A few of Jennifer Reek‘s poems have previously appeared in Amethyst Review. She is the author of A Poetics of Church: Reading and Writing Sacred Spaces of Poetic Dwelling (2018).

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