Good Friday

I wanted to make that joke about how every Friday is a good Friday, amirite… And I see I haven’t entirely spared you my poor impulse control.

But today, if you’re part of the Christian tradition*, asks for rather a deeper, less obvious exploration of this word “good.”

I’m not going to talk about it. I do want to share two poems.

The first is from Jim Harrison, a poet I’ve come to only lately,** and I’m both so pleased to see him on my bookshelf (nightstand, let’s be honest), and a bit sad I didn’t know his work when he was still alive and illuminating his corners of the earth in person.

I don’t know what to make of his poem Good Friday, and you don’t have to, either:

From In Search of Small Gods, Copper Canyon Press

I’ll just point out that today is also a full moon on Good Friday.

The second poem is my own, mining a very different vein. More traditional, probably. I have this annoying habit of doing that, but it’s not going anywhere, so let’s roll with it.

The poem is called On Learning a Dear Friend’s Devastating News, and it was written in grief last year on this ritual day of sorrow. West Linn Lutheran Church, one of my wonderful and sustaining communities, has kindly shared it on their blog as a meditative focus for today.

It’s my pleasure and relief to tell you that the dear friend in question is very much alive — though it was a near thing — and as much of a brilliant force and a blessing as ever. The poem, however, has lost none of its pain or immediacy for me. We face these griefs, always. We just aren’t always forced to look full in their own faces.

Today is set aside in my tradition to do just that, so please join me if you’re willing. When we’re done, I’m going to go sing some very sad songs in a minor key, and spend a time in somber silence, and really enjoy that.

Imagine that “enjoy” needs a redefinition today, much like “good.”

Newly-leafed cottonwoods glowing gold in the last of the April sun.

On Learning a Dear Friend’s Devastating News

In church tonight they gave us hammers.
We nailed our confessions
to a death-sized wooden cross.
We nailed our hopes.

This afternoon I took a walk,
following the scent of Oregon Grape,
divining dream of honey.
Among other wonders.

Two more suns will rise and then it’s Easter:
life reborn, and listen to the robins
tell it, the yellow violets hum.
I nailed my anger.

My heart’s not in it, I said to spring.
I clung to the path and hoped
that it would get into my hard
ungracious heart.

The pounding, sounding blows.
Heft in my hand, the drive and smack
of fear enacted ritually
and witnessed.

Oceanic silences between.
Echoes broke my stubborn heart —
of industry, community, of pain.
We’re never finished.

***

*If you’re not part of the Christian tradition, this half-pagan is not going to stop you from pondering its mysteries anyway, if you so choose. Or ignoring them.

**Thanks to Chris LaTray for the introduction. Chris is a fine writer himself, who just won the 2018 Montana Book Award for a little book called One Sentence Journal, a wonderful collection that distills the joy and difficulty of life in a way I think Jim Harrison would admire.

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