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Friday, April 22, 2011

Good Friday poem

This will probably offend some folks, but I wrote this after recalling a statement made at a Holocaust Remembrance Service some years ago, based on the line from the Psalm, "by his stripes we are healed."  The speaker commented:  "by their stripes we are healed,"  referring to the victims of the Holocaust.  So years later I came up with this poem, which is in my collection, Field Water, available at

by our wounds

from his high perch he watches us, the ones
normal as shoe leather and sandal straps
who go about the dailiness of life while
the world in madness destroys itself                                     
for gain or for food it doesn’t matter
the wounds he bears center in
barely breathing now, air scarcely
helpful, the pain numbed by mercy

he was wounded for our transgressions
            and by his bruises we are healed
in a distant place children wander
in search of lost parents who may
lie hurt or dead in the streets
of the city ruled by hate –
out of sight now we wander aimlessly          
toward the shadows accomplishing little
but passing by the terrors of night and war

the suffering ones cry out despair splits air
carried in waves to the crossbar beam           
overlooking agonies we never saw
each sorrow or hurt or dying or death
appear to serve as balm on his skin
peeled from the overbearing sun and
blows with instruments of battle

those soldiers lying in heaps from the small
explosions pounding them beyond necessity
bring their pain to soothe the thirst their blood
to staunch the flow from his brow where sweat
mingles with the covenant of redeeming love
the child whose belly holds nothing but gas
to fill the empty body takes one last look at him
upon the high beam before death comes
and offers another solace to the pain-stricken figure
by this small sacrifice to the gods of war

each sorrowed death each tortured frame
comes to this hill this place this one
who watches and receives and finds healing
one wound at a time one stripe from the lash
of the whip one piercing one piece of torn flesh
and the nails loosen from heavy wood one slight bit
at a time as the cries of victims bring release
            by our bruises he is healed
            crushed by our iniquities
            upon us is the punishment
            that makes him whole                                                 
            there is balm in Gilead
            there is balm in the land

upon the high beam he leaves our infirmities             
upon the high beam he lays our diseases
makes them all disappear he leaves . . .
what is left is not him not the one not not not him

there is no one there the high beam the heavy wood
is empty nail holes remain but with nothing to hold
it is a freedom statement a shalom word a peace
we have liberated him through our pain        
through our deaths and wounds and sorrows                        
by our stripes by our bruises by our love redeemed
empty timbers on a hill where he stands free
            it is accomplished


  1. Hi Jean, Impressive, but I am not sure I'm getting your point. Especially this line is baffling to me: we have liberated him through our pain.

    How so???

  2. Robbert: As I mention in the intro here, the idea of Holocaust victims bringing healing through their wounds triggered the concept for me that by the wounds we receive we provide enough healing to the Crucified Christ that he is released from the cross and then lays our wounds upon it, removing the pain also from us. But it is our pain that heals Christ -- as I noted, this may be an offensive concept, but it is an experiment in the theology of the Cross which I wanted to work with.

  3. I like it. Theology could use some stirring up now and again. :)

  4. Thanks, Helen. We may be in a losing effort here, but it's worth a try . . .