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It’s been a tough Lent: full of loss and anguish. Today, I lost the uncle I adored; later, I had to put my sweet cat Smudge to sleep. I am aware that I am walking the way of the cross. Every loss I feel, every sadness each of us experiences, is a mere drop in the pond compared to the sacrifice of our savior. Jesus walks before us, always, and carries the brunt of the load. Here’s a poem to help us remember.

INRI

At first, it is a relief;
you are off your feet.
The first nail is bloodless,
threaded between the bones
of your hand and the blue veins.
Painful, yes. A shock.
The second should be easier,
a known hurt.
It is not.
The pain bangs in your ears
so that you hardly notice the feet.

It is worse when they stand you up.
The flesh tears, the bones snap
like twigs, like a bush ablaze,
crackling, roaring,
the blood now throbbing I AM, I AM.
You shift your feet, standing as best you can
on a nub of wood. Otherwise, your hands
would tear like tissue.
Body exposed, arms spread — how you long
to pull them in, to cover yourself.
Below, they see only a parody of welcome, an invitation
to poke and prod you, like devils
in this burning place of judgment.

They roll dice for your clothes,
made by your mother probably,
the thread spun from wool lovingly,
the last things you own.

She is there, too, her round face
flushed with heat. She wants to wail,
to rend the skies with her wailing.
Your eyes warn her: She is of no consequence
to them now, a woman, a beast,
but if she disturbs their games
they will beat her.
They long to beat her.
It is tiresome to wait for you to die.

In the end, they must break your legs.
In the end, they must pierce you with a lance,
offer your parched lips vinegar,
one last practical joke.
You cry for what seems furthest,
most distant,
and then you die.

They will be startled
by the sudden darkness.
They will be afraid of the answering call
from the sky. But they will not understand.
No. Not yet.

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Have a Mary Little Christmas

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