Janice Issitt                    Life and Style

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14 Apr 2020

Holy Week Poems

During Holy Week I have been collaborating with my good friend Emily who is in training to be a priest. She has written a poem for every day of Holy Week and asked me to accompany it with a photo. We enjoyed our quarantine collaboration project and here are the results in full.  I hope you enjoy, I think Emily's poems are really moving and the perfect reflections of Easter during lockdown. A reading of each poem can also be found on youtube. 

Palm Sunday

The Unmade Bed

The absent, the loss from this unmade bed
A mirror-like soul threw the hot blanket back 
The shape of a naked skull here in the pillow
Soft feathers that smell of human-like sweat

The stains of bodies and twisted dreams 
White sheets that one day become a shroud
Pale fluid from acts of love or lost life 
Fevered dreams that claw in the belly of time.
The mattress that never can yield to the weight  
For all of the tossing and tide of the night
The tepid, rejected limbs chills in morn
The moment of lust, that leaves hollow a breath

The dog that would sleep at the end, if allowed
The morning that only comes, after collapse. 
Rising like ghost Lazarus, barely alive
And yet, I am known even in this half state
Tuck me in warm, fill bottle and cup
In your soft lullaby I sleep calm like that dog,
The unmade, is made, only in Christ

I am such a bed until sleep becomes death.    

Death of a Tree 
In root and core, the rot runs deep
In peeling bark, in fruitless bud, in brown mould leaf
What form could take this sin and weep
A tree, a tree a blameless thing 
In blacken branch, it’s cursed word
A touch that steals all youthful gifts
Damned by all sweetness known in man
In human form, in Genesis. 
Low, low the branches bow
The weight of these rejected hopes
Spring forth from death those gleaming jewels
In sinless dance, in seasons blessed. 

Holy Tuesday

To prayer we drift in sleep, foam, feathers, snow. 
A divine blanket of air grows fat about us. 
And there we begin to sweat, dragged on tides to skies of pricked gold. 
A warm sunshine, blinding eyes and caressing cheeks. 
Then like a ripe egg, we crack open and everything we are flows …
in a swollen river of communion, breaking its banks. 

In drowning, we learn to swim in our calling. 

Holy Wednesday
A hammer to breakdown a door 
a lens to observe the world 
a chisel to carve across 
sand to wear down a wool 
Like wind, like rain, like sound 

an axe to cut out Deadwood 
oil to grease old wheels
a flask of hot tea for the bad days 
a pair of comfortable shoes 
some oil, some bread, some wine 

glue to fix broken hearts 
ink to tattoo his name on their skin 
a whistle to play a good tune 
scales to weigh out my time
love, faith and limitless hope 

Maundy Thursday

The Flex

Combs of wire, tearing and dragging the flex
That breaking sound is all about your parting
Long years of love, forgotten in rage
Exhaustion and somewhere between, a child

One pulling apart, eased by thick lanolin
The other clinging on for dear life 
As oiled fibres slip though fingers 
There is somewhere between, a child

But what is softer and stronger than the flex? 
The child forgotten, the lamb betrayed?
Hold fast dear friends, these times will pass
Remember the child. Remember the lamb

Carding out the thorns, smoothing the flex
Making it good, to be weaved again
Weaving now, a newness in love
He will give you his fleece, if you ask  

Good Friday 

In Deep Wounds

In deep wounds lies our Lord. 
In stardust, in trees, in the gutter. 
In the words, ‘it is good to be here.’
In the little death of dogs, in the mighty death of Mother. 
In the baby that did not breath, 
in the birthday cake and the cold shoulder. 

In deep wounds like salt and dirt lies his promise. 
He will come, looked for like Christmas snow
… forgotten like old razor blades. 
Ever glorious and shouting out a good tune. 
He will come without warning withered and old … shiny and new. 

In deep wounds, I will see him reflected in the bowl of a spoon, 
a cut lip, a lost love. 
In days, in prayer, in pus and earth,
in the empty cot, in the stone cold tomb.
In rot. 

In deep wounds like sleep, hot and naked, 
a retreat. Forgotten, 
unlooked for, forgiven, complete. 
In dreams of death, in a light footed dance, in breath and water. 
A blood stained sheet. 
In a splinter or a long hard week. 
In deep wounds he will come and seek us out. 
In deep wounds he will wait for our return
In deep wounds like balm, like cooling ice
lies our Lord … The Christ. 

Saturday Vigil

Mary’s Lament

Where is my heart? 
Lost, lost
lost in a dark 
hidden and lost 

Forgotten in din
buried deep in the fog 
cracked in the stone
alone, alone

Where is my Lord? 
Silent and calm
Waiting in rain
in grass that is long 
found found 

found in my pain 
in cycles of loss 
lost lost 
my heart a blackbird,
wings beating hard 

where is my heart 
held like a lamb 
crucified, stabbed 
with each little death 
lost lost 

In this night of grief
tears in the tides 
where is my love 
lost from my sight 

Where is my heart?
the heart of the Christ 
held safe but not won
lost in this night 
Lost lost   

Easter Sunday

Silver Webs

In cracks between sliver webs, spy holes between dew and light. 
His whole looks back, in unblinking eyes, soft, soft, endless sight.
Christ Jesus King, in the gaps not the sparkled thread.
In the broken wings of dried flies caught, drunk and dead.  

Held in his gaze, eyes fixed and riveted mine
As a fly in the web, I am mesmerized by a journey divine
Gently he bundles me in sliver twine, swaddled as a babe
And bleeds me of all my sins, as he once bravely bled

Suspended I sleep, cradled in hands and wrists that weep
Awaiting my resurrection, to rise again to his need
In faith of his people, to carry like stones their pain 
I bleed out, as fly to spider, in a raging desire to live again.  

Easter Monday


Does it start in the marrow? In the bones, in cells? 
In grey matter or in the gut? 
Are we blocks of stone, carved by Christ?
Or are we thrown, slippery as a newborn on a wheel? 

It is when we begin to delight in the little. 
The specks, the light in leaves, the piping hot cup of tea
It is when we fall in love with the world
Slowly sinking into joy and pain, like comfortable sleep 

In a happy day, when gratitude becomes a tear
When the soft scent of rose and wood smoke is in the air 

We are formed in love, turned inside out by it
We know the suffering of withdrawal, when we return
Taking only a tiny speck of the gold with us. 
And the knowledge that at any moment we can turn back. 

For he waits for us, eternally. 

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