Sunday, March 27, 2016

A Poem for Easter Morning

In earlier years, I might have gotten in an Easter run at the beach.  In even earlier years, my dad and I would have gone for our Easter run in the afternoon.  Easter has often involved a cake in the shape of a bunny face, and more often church, often in multiple services.

A year ago, my family would have been in Hawaii.  We had no bunny cake, but we did hike to a part of the beach that was deserted, and we did a brief Easter service that my mother wrote.

The day before that, we were at a military base, and I was struck by their Easter displays which enchanted the children that walked through.

Not every Easter can be so spectacular, but every Easter can have a poem.  Here's one I like, although I suspect that poetry purists would find it too narrative, too much like prose with line breaks.  Other poetry purists won't like it for its religious themes.  So be it.

Good News

Awash in Paschal mysteries, I awaken early
Easter morning and run to the beach to watch the sun
rise. I know what to watch
for, the luminous presence, the one to call Rabboni.
Instead, I see the usual assortment of homeless
folks, the crazed newspaper carriers, people just off
work from the extremely early or really late
shifts, and me.

My father and I used to run every holiday, hollering
good wishes to everyone who could hear. But this morning,
I find myself mute as Peter, unable to proclaim
a simple Easter greeting. Like Jesus’
Jerusalem, my city situates itself at a distant edge
of a great empire, a crossroads of continents.
What if I, in shouting “Happy Easter!” offend
a Muslim or a Jew? Chances are good that my language
would be incomprehensible anyway. I sit
on the beach, watching the sun struggle
through the clouds, sketching fish in the sand.

On the Intracoastal Waterway bridge, I muster
my courage. This man looks like he could use a friendly
greeting. He has that downtrodden look that could have
a number of causes: chemotherapy? Homelessness? Aging badly?
I smile and say, “Happy Easter!” His face glows
as he returns my greeting, “The Lord is risen.”
I expected, at most, a “Happy Easter” in reply,
but he bestow this great gift,
a reminder of the reason I’ve risen
early. And like any gift of grace, this one multiplies.

Now, like a woman who has returned from an empty
tomb, I race through my neighborhood streets.
Every pedestrian, every driver with an open window,
gets my greeting and a silent benediction,
along with a smile, that universal sign.
I have a second chance—the essential
Easter message. We have as many chances as we need.

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