Earthly Beatitudes

Earthly Beatitudes

I wear the amulet of a captured knight.
Once, I wrote to Lazarus,

He said it was the women weeping
that moved him to bring you back.
If only we had known,
we would not have cried.
How many stones
have women’s crying moved?

Long before Eve,
long before God
started counting
the hours
    of his labors,
before the first seed
bore fruit in the womb,
there was the weeping.
The oceans are still full.

I was the obstinate daughter of Job,
Father of the weak, hungry, disfigured
Father of the knife of Abraham,
What mercy calls for the knife 
and stays the hand
 that seizes it?
The exiled rock reports
certain women of the Celtic cross 
were warriors blessed with fiery tongues.

At first, I saw a visage of grieving crones,
madly tangled vines, bloodroot eyes,

but there is no kindling –
not widow, not orphan, not barren,
for a mother who bears a son and loses him.

These warriors looked back
and pebbles dropped
from talons of fertile hawks
choosing the wind shear,
fearless in freefall.
In a brook bubbling up,
shape-shifter emerged.
The beatific smile arose
from the grimace
of death

The advancing tribe was led
by weaponless, silent women.


I kneel next to thorny stalks,
let dark sod crumble through half-moons.
If I were to cast off this crown, 
what would I know of returning song,
of the petal’s blush before it falls to the ground?

You asked, Take from me this bitter cup,
as if you wished to stand apart 
from all that springs up, 
falls back
and rests deep in salt

This is the lesson for Sisyphus, my disturbed son,
Leave that stone alone.  It’s right where it belongs.
I will knit with you by the lamp, 
while the winter wind is only a draft 
for drowsy embers in the lucid northern light.
The clicking speaks its own tongue
 of fire and thorns.

When I go home, 
I will come back 
not as Lazarus,
blinking and bewildered in the light,
but nameless 
as the scent of hyacinth
arises out of rich loam
fully spread,
       faced up to the dawn.

Lillian Baker Kennedy -- Poems

Earthly Beatitudes, Earthly Beatitudes, An Exhibit of Sculpture by Kerstin Engman and Poetry by Lillian Baker Kennedy, University of Southern Maine, Lewiston/Auburn Atrium Gallery, November 2003; Kennedy, Lillian Baker, Notions (Pudding House Publications 2004).

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