Stations of The Cross 2010

Veronica Wipes The Face of Jesus


the face, the keen toned lines distorted,
the crown cut deep,
the bone's lament,
the blood dividing skin into a jagged maze;
the liveliness drained down to the death of movement.
The eyes still live,
limply, limpidly, in recess,
the only loving organs left to encourage and caress.
Again I miscalculate the height of a stepping stone
and lose momentum,
then blunder into an oasis,
a courtyard on the way to nowhere,
lost to the crowd, the barging and heckling,
feeling the last caress of the cool morning.
A woman dressed like a waitress, with a linen cloth over her extended arm,
counts the places at an empty table
and smiles with tavern charm;
and then, turning to pass back, she sways out of dead reckoning
and presses the unfurled cloth against my face,
cool as the spring.
Just for a moment, we see my face as if reflected in a pool.
Broken, broken,
it has come to this.
She hovers between my face and its image on the cloth,
then imprints my imprinted lips
with a parting kiss.
Sometimes in the evening, I thought, when the fire burned low and the men fell
into habitual solemnity,
they will forget the joy of the tavern,
the kissing and the drinking;
they will too easily think
that I came to love the serious and the dry,
how they were when the boats came in,
before they thought I wanted them to be religious
and warriors against sin.
I wonder if they will ever regain the capacity for joy,
the pleasure in the dance, the solace of the bottle,
the birth of an unlooked-for boy.
So it is well that I receive my last act of kindness in a tavern yard
and leave my face on a wiping towel.
Time please, gentlemen,
time please,
no more now, save your breath.
Think of the joys of Bacchus
and the pain of death.


Look upon the wounds of glory
printed on a sacred shroud;
look upon the face of Jesus,
quiet before the roaring crowd;
look upon the scars of rapture,
look upon the wounds of power,
see the majesty of suffering,
pictured in its final hour.

Look upon the maiden gentle,
tending to that sacred face,
look upon that naive kindness
blind to horror and disgrace;
look upon her simple solace,
in a moment's graceful care;
see her looking at his image
like a lover, gone, but there.

See this face near death encaptured
like the sculpture and the coin;
but this is our king forever,
his the everlasting throne:
see the noble scars of triumph
borne victorious to forgive;
see the glory in the pathos,
life in death that we might live.

See that wounded face within us,
see it in each other's face,
see its truth in saints and sinners,
ours not to own but to embrace:
see it painted by a maiden,
artless past the power of thought,
humbly taken in a moment,
unpretentious and unwrought.