A Sequence of Poems for Holy Week

By Lawrence “Mack in Texas” Hall (Rated G)

Holy Thursday 2017

On this Maundatum Thursday falls a bomb
From the belly of a beast, falling, falling
From the Empyrean and through the blue
Past mountaintops and misted valleys deep

And then into the planet’s earthen flanks
Its pulses to repudiate Creation
In vaporizing the structures of life
Into primeval molecules of dust

Because some bad men might be lurking there
On this Maundatum Thursday falls a bomb


Maundy Thursday – Mass of the Last Supper
“Bare ruin’d choirs, where late the sweet birds sang”
-Shakespeare

The air is thurified – the incense given
Our Lord upon His birth is fumed at last;
The censer’s chains, clanking like manacles
Offend against the silence at the end of Mass

Supper is concluded; the servants strip
The Table bare of all the Seder service:
Cups, linens, and dishes, leaving in the dark
An Altar bare, prepared for sacrifice

In Gethsemane the flowered air is sweet
But iron-heeled caligae offend the night


A Night of Fallen Nothingness
6 April 2012, Good Friday

The Altar stripped, the candles dark, the Cross
Concealed behind a purple shroud, the sun
Mere slantings through an afternoon of grief
While all the world is emptied of all hope.
The dead remain, the failing light withdraws
As do the broken faithful, silently,
Into a night of fallen nothingness.


Easter Vigil, Sort Of
7 April 2012, Holy Saturday

A vigil, no, simply quiet reflection
Minutes before midnight, with all asleep
Little Liesl-Dog perhaps dreams of squirrels,
For she has chased and barked them all the day;
The kittens are disposed with their mother
After an hour of kitty-baby-talk,
Adored by all, except by Calvin-Cat,
That venerable, cranky old orange hair-ball,
Who resents youthful intrusion upon
His proper role as object of worship.
All the house settles in for the spring night,
Anticipating Easter, early Mass,
And then the appropriately pagan
Merriments of chocolates and colored eggs
And children with baskets squealing for more
As children should, in the springtime of life.


Christos Voskrese!
Easter, 2014
For William Tod Mixson

The world is unusually quiet this dawn
With fading stars withdrawing in good grace
And drowsy, dreaming sunflowers, dewy-drooped,
Their golden crowns all motionless and still,
Stand patiently in their ordered garden rows,
Almost as if they wait for lazy bees
To wake and work, and so begin the day.
A solitary swallow sweeps the sky;
An early finch proclaims his leafy seat
While Old Kashtanka limps around the yard
Snuffling the boundaries on her morning patrol.

Then wide-yawning Mikhail, happily barefoot,
A lump of bread for nibbling in one hand,
A birch switch swishing menace in the other
Appears, and whistles up his father’s cows:
“Hey! Alina, and Antonina! Up!
Up, up, Diana and Dominika!
You, too, Varvara and Valentina!
Pashka is here, and dawn, and spring, and life!”
And they are not reluctant then to rise
From sweet and grassy beds, with udders full,
Cow-gossip-lowing to the dairy barn.

Anastasia lights the ikon lamp
And crosses herself as her mother taught.
She’ll brew the tea, the strong black wake-up tea,
And think about that naughty, handsome Yuri
Who winked at her during the Liturgy
On the holiest midnight of the year.
O pray that watchful Father did not see!
Breakfast will be merry, an echo-feast
Of last night’s eggs, pysanky, sausage, kulich.
And Mother will pack Babushka’s basket,
Because only a mother can do that right

When Father Vasily arrived last night
In a limping Lada haloed in smoke,
The men put out their cigarettes and helped
With every precious vestment, cope, and chain,
For old Saint Basil’s has not its own priest,
Not since the Czar, and Seraphim-Diveyevo
From time to time, for weddings, holy days,
Funerals, supplies the needs of the parish,
Often with Father Vasily (whose mother
Begins most conversations with “My son,
The priest.…”), much to the amusement of all.

Voices fell, temperatures fell, darkness fell
And stars hovered low over the silent fields,
Dark larches, parking lots, and tractor sheds.
Inside the lightless church the priest began
The ancient prayers of desolate emptiness
To which the faithful whispered in reply,
Unworthy mourners at the Garden tomb,
Spiraling deeper and deeper in grief
Until that Word, by Saint Mary Magdalene
Revealed, with candles, hymns, and midnight bells
Spoke light and life to poor but hopeful souls.

The world is unusually quiet this dawn;
The sun is new-lamb warm upon creation,
For Pascha gently rests upon the earth,
This holy Russia, whose martyrs and saints
Enlighten the nations through their witness of faith,
Mercy, blessings, penance, and prayer eternal
Now rising with a resurrection hymn,
And even needful chores are liturgies:
“Christos Voskrese – Christ is risen indeed!”
And Old Kashtanka limps around the yard
Snuffling the boundaries on her morning patrol.

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