A couple of years ago, a friend of mine, Mary McCallum decided she would begin hosting poems on her blog. It sounded like such a fun thing, and as it was around Easter, I suggested that I had a poem she might like. Well, Mary is a very talented poet and a perfectionist. I sent her my run-on Easter poem and we chatted via email over the weekend before it was ‘published’. There were queries about words and line breaks and eventually, my run-on poem became the shape of an Easter cross. Yes, I can’t take the credit for this, was the clever eye and editing of Mary. I like the cross, and too, I liked the run-on of the poem when it wasn’t a cross. It’s interesting how a poem can change shape and yet the meaning more or less remains. I’m not big on overt symbolism so I worried that my poem wasn’t strong enough to carry the Easter Cross.
I am going to re-post the poem here on my blog, without the shaping, first because it’s tricky on a blog to get the poem to stay in shape, so hat’s off to Mary, but also because I thought the poem might work in its more or less original form, as a kind of run-on.
Mulling it over
Cinnamon, cardamom, almonds
and wasps, plump imported raisins,
currants; Uncle’s aluminium pan.
The sunlight is thinner and Maria
who is Greek is fasting; orange peel
floats in the dark pool of wine.
I add sugar and schnapps, watch
the liquid almost boil and ladle it
into warm mugs. We breathe in
the alcohol, swat at the wasps
remember last Easter and the one
before. We marvel at the yeasty buns
suck the sticky glaze from our fingers
and lift the pale crosses to our lips
knowing that Pilate will wash his hands,
Veronica will wash his face, a
soldier will lance his side, and that
he will chat to a couple of thieves
just before he dies. But, it is
the triumph of the empty tomb
we most admire as we raise our
hot mugs of wine in relief, glad.
Although, I’m not religious, I love Good Friday and the poem is about the way we celebrate our Good Friday. We have friends over to eat my home-made hot cross buns and drink our (top-secret) staggeringly alcoholic mulled wine. It includes aquavit or schnapps, Muscat de Frontignac (when we’re feeling flush), vermouth and red wine, not to mention cinnamon sticks, orange peel, cardamoms, seedless raisins and almonds. The red wine is usually run of the mill, or even cask red, as once you’ve added sugar and almost boiled the stuff…. well… but one year, my daughter-in-law’s sister had just celebrated her summer wedding and there were a spare few bottles of rather nice red left over which were generously donated to the mulled wine. Many of us, sipping that particular brew, rued the fact, we’d cooked it! The buns have crosses, but my family get their own bun decorated with their initial instead of a cross, and now I have a granddaughter who has the same initial as her father – they are both the ‘S’ bun. My youngest son is a ‘T’ bun, which is more or less, a cross I guess, but as he lives overseas, there won’t be a‘t’ this year.
When I say I’m not religious, this does rather omit my Catholic (leaning toward Irish) upbringing. So, I have fond memories of Good Friday, the three-hour pageantry, the stations of the cross, the kneeling the standing, the drama. We had handsome Irish priests to lust after, and one passionate local priest, Father Bradford who would hurl himself at the floor in true grief at almost every station, building to a heart-rending finale. I was glad when Simon came along to help carry the cross, I loved it when Veronica wiped the face of Jesus, and we all fell in unison, once, twice three times, when Jesus fell, down on our knees, urged on by the theatrics of Father Bradford. But, I must confess, I was sometimes distracted by the gorgeous outfits of the girls from Waimea West by the time they laid him in the tomb. You see, Easter was a time of religious fervor and fashion. It was the between seasons moment when you could wear your new winter outfit, and admire everyone else, including their hats. We were a small parish and at Easter for some reason, we would collect the surrounding countryside parishes into our church – oh, a host of fabulous fashion, girls my age whom I saw perhaps once or twice a year, and we’d all be wearing our very best brand new Easter outfits. Yes, I loved the Stations of the Cross, Father Bradford leading us in what was I suppose, our own modest Oberammergau – we were part of the passion play, standing, kneeling, in thrall to his grief, perhaps exploring our own, and peeking, as you do, to see what the girls from Waimea West were wearing.
A curious thing; my links are not working unfortunately, on either this or my last few posts. I have sent a message to WordPress and hopefully I will find a solution. So, in the meantime, if you wish to see the poem as an Easter Cross as first published, try this http://mary-mccallum.blogspot.co.nz/2010/03/tuesday-poem-mulling-it-over.html.
Also do check out the Tuesday Poem blog which has now taken off and is a big success – so well done to Mary and all the other contributing poets. http://tuesdaypoem.blogspot.co.nz/