Friday at the Holy Sepulchre – a poem by Royal Rhodes


("Jesus' Blood Never Failed Me Yet"  ~
    Unknown composer, arranged by Gavin Bryars)

A clutch of Filipino pilgrims climb
the steps to Calvary behind their guide
whose closed umbrella like a bony limb
points them to the altars, side by side,
where Orthodox and Latins claim the space
where Jesus, once abandoned, bled and died.
They say this little mountain swayed and shook.
Graves were opened, so that face-to-face
the saints appeared to those who stopped to look.

Others, waiting, always waiting, knelt
beside the stone of unction, never caring
that it was a copy. Hands had spelt
for centuries their prayers, as candles, flaring,
lit the surface, smeared with oil and tears
A flood of tongues was heard this special Friday
before the Easter fire flamed again.
I watched, aloof, while hearing without ears
to hear, my careful heart repeat: Amen. 

Royal Rhodes is a retired professor of global religions, religion and the arts, and death & dying. His poems have appeared online and in a series of poetry/art collaborations with The Catbird [on the Yadkin] Press in North Carolina. 

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