Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Christmas Eve Poem

A few days ago, I said that I would post the poem that I read during the Christmas Eve service. I'll be the first to admit that it's not your standard Christmas Eve fare: no manger, no angels, no shepherds, no Mary, no Joseph. But it fits the Christmas theme of Emmanuel, God with Us.

In some ways, it works better as a Maundy Thursday poem, which makes sense because it was inspired by a discussion about the best way to celebrate Maundy Thursday, when the church council of an old church to which I belonged vetoed a foot washing service. Most of the parishioners of that church would flatly refuse to let others see the pitiful nature of their feet. Of course, that’s the point of a foot washing service. There’s no place to hide with your feet exposed.

I have no problem letting others see my feet, so I immediately began to play with ideas. What would I most want to hide from my fellow humans, from God? My bathroom.

Here’s the poem I wrote, and I should warn you, many people have reacted strongly to it. I figure that a work of art that provokes this level of discomfort may be on the road to revealing some truth, so I haven’t abandoned it. Chiron Review recently published it.


Jesus showed up on my doorstep, demanding
to clean my bathroom.
I refused.
I mean, it’s one thing for him to face
Crucifixion for my sake.
It’s quite another for him to see
how I really live.

His face—so sad.
He talked about searching
for feet to wash, but modern feet are so clean.
It’s no sacrifice to touch people’s feet.
In this world of pedicures
and solid shoes, a foot washing doesn’t convey
the same care it once did. That’s how he came
to develop his crazy cleaning scheme.

I offered to let him scour my oven,
but he said it wasn’t the same,
and besides, it’s self-cleaning.
He really wanted to deal
with the detritus of my life.

What can I say? Jesus is persuasive.
He organized my jumble of cosmetics and healed
my slow drains. He cleaned
my toilet with his hair.

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