Sunday, March 2, 2014

A Poem for Transfiguration Sunday

Transfiguration Sunday puts me in mind of many things, the ways we long to be transfigured, the ways that life can transfigure us.  As I've gotten older, I've realized how many ways life is fragile, and that realization itself has transformed me.  I'm not going to get seethingly angry, especially about things that are out of my control.  Life is very, very short, and we are not here very long.

Those of you who read my poems, my blog posts, any of my writing at all--you recognize this theme. 

It's also interesting to me the many ways that we move through the liturgical year and the resonances that my haunt us.  This year I have a colleague who has been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and a friend who struggles with the last stage of kidney failure.  It's also the time of year that is the anniversary of a different friend's mother's death after an agonizing struggle with breast cancer that moved to the brain.

Was I thinking of that friend and her mother when I wrote the poem below?  Probably.

This poem was published in The Healing Muse. It's part of my series of poems where I imagine Jesus moving through our modern lives (going to spin class, playing putt putt or softball, helping with hurricane clean up).

Transfiguration Sunday on the Cancer Ward

He waits with them because who knows
better how disconcerting
it is to discern one’s disjointed bones
dissolving into water. He remembers
how it feels to be forsaken.
He remembers feeling life flow out of him,
only a husk of his former humanity remaining.

Here, he can’t do much.
In a world of free will, cancer cells can multiply,
bright sons of the morning who would rather reign
in hell than serve in heaven.
Here on the cancer ward, he can’t do
much, but he does what he can.

He brings ice chips and water to those annoyed
by their drought desert mouths.
He offers consolation to the woman who complains
that she can see all her bones through her translucent skin.
He offers tales of transfiguration,
and holds out the hope of resurrection.
He reminisces with those who are too far
gone to remain on the earthly plane much longer.
They trade tales of what they’ll miss most:
crisp sheets on a fresh-made bed,
long lingering meals,
birdsong in the morning,
the change in light that signals a new season,
homemade bread,
the soft rains and gentle sunsets,
a perfect bottle of wine.

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