Stations of The Cross 2010

Jesus Is Condemned to Death


Not a patrician vote from the Senate floor
but a dithering Governor,
damp-handed, petrified in the stony gaze
of frightened men, hardened and fore-shortened by the Law.
Guilty with all the countless victims pincered in the law's bent vice,
the desperate propitiation, calamity delayed
for another day with a pointless sacrifice.
Oscar Romero shot, peasants with no name,
scapegoats with momentary, violated fame.
Children forced to carry guns and children shot
for what they and their killers had forgot.
Boots on gravel, boots
kicking down the door;
I stand with them as the dark strikes four
and officials indifferently record,
and men wearing weapons as casually as eye glasses ceremonialise a judicial kill,
the public facelessness of the public will.
From the whispered threat to the whispered accusation,
I know the story, the chronic subterfuge and temporisation,
the callous calculation;
the man must die for the people,
the man must die for the law;
the overturner of tables in the Temple
must learn what sacrifice is for.
And I stand with a sense
of only half wonder
that the street demonstration has dissolved,
that the rhetoric of the challenge is a victim of the challenge,
that the tactics of temporary withdrawal are innumerable.
for in spite of the bonhomie on the boats and the comradeship of the road
and the bright hope when a leper croaked with amazement,
I was always lonely;
not God-lonely but man-lonely, world-lonely,
always seeing past the talk and the spasm of bravado
into the gap I came to fill.
"My Father's will," I thought, and, then, less certainly,
"My Father's will."


At last, the necessary ordeal is radically foreshortened:
I was a judge in the hall of judgment,
mockery simply a parody turned back on the mockers;
in the garden I frightened the soldiers;
at the ill assorted farrago of inquisitions I asserted his my kingship;
all they could do was demean themselves in charade,
that cloak and knee-bending burlesque;
and the mighty man of Rome asking "what is truth?"
When all he was called to act upon was proof.
Yes, I will be with them, the down-trodden and the persecuted,
I will be in the cattle trucks and the death camps,
clutching my gas mask in the trenches,
standing beside them in the firing squad,
but not only in the person of the human Jesus
but there to lift them to myself as God.
I watch the hurriedly disappearing figure of Nicodemus,
off on an errand of reconciliation;
I watch the Governor hurriedly wiping his hands on the inside of his cape;
I see Peter, ruddy and rudderless, reeling, making his escape;
and I see the temporary truce between the officials and the soldiers
dissipate, poisoned by its casual misuse;
and I see that when they have all gone back, down-hearted
into their accustomed occupations,
they will find me again. I am the one
they will all depend upon.