After they ate the Seder meal, whose order is very long,
they sang the closing psalm, and walked together
until they came to the grove.
Jesus prayed for them and still wanted to talk
to his students, his friends.
The rhododendrons closed their petals;
the blood red poppies in the fields beyond
had faded at twilight.
Jasmine, thyme, cedar, and chamomile scented
the dark air of Gethsemane.
The adolescent boys, who’d eaten and drunk a lot,
were exhausted with the hours, bearing
the history of the Jewish people,
and they slept beneath the canopy of olives.
The cyclamen stood sentry beside their black curls,
like birds bowing their heads, balancing
on one leg. “Stay awake with me
and pray,” their Rabbi said.
Even loyal Peter, who blurted out his every thought,
was drooling on his pine needle pillow.
In sorrow until death, Jesus was human and afraid,
wanted comfort and company to endure
the torture Pilate ordered for the tens of thousands
who dared rebel and love the poor.
“I am the way and the truth and the life,” he said,
yet he anguished: no praise for my deeds.
I’ll go to the trash heap of skulls,
like the other insurgents and thieves.
“Stay awake,” he whispered to their slumbering forms
sleeping off their feast of flesh and blood,
though he knew—as He knows all—that to wake
and see him fully human and fully God was more
than could be borne by these beloved children.
--Aliki Barnstone, forthcoming in her book of poems, Dwelling, the Sheep Meadow Press, 2016
Note:“Stay awake...” Matthew 25:15. “I am the way…” John 14:6. Golgatha “means the place of the skull,” Matthew 27:33.