Stations of The Cross 2010

Jesus Falls for The First Time


I hit the stony ground, knees grazed,
hands numb as the cross piece staggers down
the crazed hill.
In the moment before organisation catches up with events,
I see snatches of a rush mat let down through the tiles;
and the sad man trapped at the pool-side who almost smiles;
and the woman bent double.
There was always so much unlocking to do,
of the physical and the mental,
of the self-inflicted and the moral:
unlock those doors, unlock the laws,
unlock the guilt, unlock the love.
So much to unlock which Cousin John called sin
but it was more often the case that people needed to be unlocked
from themselves so that they could let God in.
A priest passes, so close
that I admire the fringe of his robe.
How I made fun of them and look where it has led.
It does not do to unlock the law
or it pours out in untidy pieces
and spreads itself across the marble floor:
a piece for the accountant; a piece for the handmaid;
a piece for the goldsmith; a piece for the marriage broker;
yet pieced out, not amounting to much,
a mosaic puzzle with its own odd symmetry and coherence
but what has that to do with God?
I am not sorry that I unlocked the law;
and such a nice fringe.
With a stroke of startling, sadistic expertise
the soldier's knotted stick unlocks my limbs
in searing release
and I crawl to the halted cross piece.
Unlocked, the blood pains as it courses.
There is something about the indifference that sustains a kind of survival,
Unlocking can be painful.


I stand in the turmoil, my load laid down
to watch the best and worst of humankind
thronging the narrow street:
a disciple momentarily appears at an impossible angle;
traders stand full-shouldered against the human tide pushing up the hill;
a mother weeps her children away from the gruesome drama;
an old woman my hands unbent scuttles past
as if nothing is happening,
as she did at the time, as if her unbending was normal;
incongruously, a musician asks me for a donation;
a priest glides by, gorgeous and aloof
and I have to resist the temptation to bar his way
and ask him: "What is truth?"
He sees the stand-off between the Temple Police and Pilate's cohort
and wants none of it.
The crowd presses as if it is driven by an inner, collective compulsion,
not so much blood lust as a need to get this over with
in order to get on with the next thing.
Strange that my people who are longing for the Messiah
have no way of recognising the real thing.
At last the soldiers become restive
and one strikes me with his stick
and, so as not to seem docile,
I calculate the time between the blow and the time to go.
I say a prayer, remembering Zechariah
and lift The Cross a little higher.