Mine Ear

We have just passed through another week we Christians call “holy,” not because other time is not holy, but because we seek to use this time to listen more deeply to the suffering and healing presence of God in these days. Indeed, we seek to comprehend our own suffering and death as well as that around us, hoping to see the Light more clearly.

In that respect, I was struck by a desire to rename “Good Friday,” whose “goodness” depends on accepting the theory that Jesus had to die to settle scores with God, his “Father,” thus erasing our sins from the Divine ledger. He did good, dying. Rather, it would help me simply to recognize it as a day of co-suffering – with ourselves, our fellow humans, the earth, and God.

We were especially fortunate to have a dramatic thread through the week crafted by our friend and author Angela Dove and enacted by poet Michael Beadle, counselor Ned Martin, and actress/singer Lyn Donnelly.

Among all the familiar themes and words from these events, a minor note stuck in my mind, resonating and clamoring for recognition. It is the moment when one of the disciples (Peter, says the Gospel according to John) cuts off the ear of the slave of the high priest. (Again, John alone names him.) Somehow, this became a way into the story for me.

Like so many of my poems, tangling as they do with the richness of the English language, it revolves in the end around a play on words. It is, however, a bilingual pun, hearkening to the Dutch that found its way to the Afrikaans spoken at the Cape of Good Hope. But I’ll leave that to the end, where I place the titles of my poems.

Mine ear!

Cut off

beneath the olive trees

by tempered

sword,

by cudgeling

crowds,

That fisherman

from Galilee

he sliced it off

me

Malchus

bound in silent servitude,

mine ear that listened for commands

from priestly powers

yes, my priest,

my high priest.

Now blinded by the pain

no way to hear commands

to listen to the rooster crow

the jingle of the coins

the creaking rope

earth’s agony,

But healed by the rabbi’s hand

I hear beyond

the sword

the priest

the crowd

sepulchral groans.

I stand

within a clearing

free to hear

the silence

saving words.

Mynheer

“Mynheer” is the Dutch/Afrikaans for “my Lord.” The Gospel source is John 18:10.