Stigmatic: a poem for Good Friday

[Years ago I read an account of someone—at this distance I don’t even remember who—receiving the stigmata. The detail that has stayed with me ever since was that the wounds did not come all at once, but gradually developed over several months.]   You pierced me slowly, Lord. An itch at first. Mere irritation. Then four sores. Blood seeping, Staining sock and shirt. Skin scraped away as if by Sandpaper. Why not the quick urgent thrust of a lover Breaking my virgin skin with rush of blood? Penetration completed in a moment. As swift as when nails impaled you. Your mining as ponderous and painstaking As an archeological dig. Pits Excavated in my extremities With excruciating exactness. Pressing imperceptibly deeper Precise, damaging no bones. At last you break the further skin and It is finished, your languid lancing. Four fleshy tunnels oozing gore. Flies find passage through me. Strange and sluggish God, Lord of the fords of Jabbok, Why is it that You wound all those you love? A rough wooing, yours, that Leaves us scarred and limping. And the exquisite extension of your Infliction of injury! You could shatter my hip in a second But you wait till the night-wrestle is done. What did you discover As you dug into me? What did you uncover Between muscle fibres Behind bones Beneath veins? You are the God who sees; What did you want to show when You laid me more than bare? Or are the hurts my own? My Malignant mind, my agonistic soul So fixed on the pains that were yours that I have etched them into my flesh, Deeper and sorer than any tattoo? Is it our malformed love for you that cripples us, O God of Jacob? Is there so much pain in your penumbra that To draw near is to suffer? Is it our own distortions that Break us in your light? Your glory has Gored me. Your beauty has Broken me. Your grace has Gutted me. Is it masochism that drives me to seek you still? ‘Through death you have trampled down Death’. ‘Your wounds in Beauty glorified.’ Through this long Good Friday I choose To wait For a mountain Moved. For an answer Unimagined. For the repeal of An execution. For a vivified Corpse. You have tunnelled through my body. You have undermined my soul. Distorted. Partial. Broken. I see a displaced stone. I see discarded rags. I see an empty cave. I put my hope in absence. I cannot see you. I cannot not...

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