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
Believe.

4 Comments

  1. David Conolly
    Mar 25, 2016

    A poem to take breath away. Thank you. May I read it as part of the sermon/reflection I am called to give on Easter 2? Bless you.

    • steve
      Mar 25, 2016

      Of course! Many thanks.

  2. Terry
    Mar 25, 2016

    Thanks, Steve. I don’t usually ‘get’ poetry, but this has had a timely impact on me.

  3. Jeremiah
    Mar 30, 2016

    St. Francis of Assisi is traditionally held to have received the stigmata of Christ. It’s a popular theme in Western church art, starting shortly after his lifetime.

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