The Passion of the Lord, Meditation In Lockdown and Telling The Bees. Three poems by Sheila Jacob

The Passion of the Lord Good Friday April 2020

Inside the Cathedral,
no late comers squash
together and concertina
in crowded pews.
There’s no shared breath
of congregation and choir,
no clearing of throats
or blowing of noses
or wriggling of children
to the sacristy toilet.

Our Bishop’s alone,
live streaming the liturgy
on Facebook.
He prostrates himself
at the altar steps,
reads the Gospel
according to St. John
and pulls the purple curtain
from an unfigured
full-length cross.

He genuflects, embraces,
and I think of the man
who washed his disciples
dust-grained feet,
sweated drops of blood
in the olive garden,
wore a crown of thorns
as he was pinned and hung,
refused anodyne vinegar
and forgave his enemies.

I want the touch, now,
of this messy, naked death.
I need to kiss the wood
of this cross,
this love.

Meditation In Lockdown

I’m turning the key in the ignition
though I’m not familiar
with the technique: a novice
at the wheel and unlicensed.
But the sky’s baby blue
and I’m making a pilgrimage
to the coast, foot on the accelerator
and satnav on the dashboard.

I wind down the windows
and let my hair pat my cheeks.
I take narrow roads leading
from village to mountains
to the sea; misty at first,
like a desert mirage and pulled
across the horizon by a paintbrush
dipped in pale shimmer grey.

I stop, take off shoes and socks
and scoot towards the waves.
I’m foot-slicked in clear water.
Waves hush-shush and foam
cleanses me like the lacy hem
of an angel’s white wing.
And softly, slowly, my own breath
lifts me above tide and town,

lowers me into a new stillness
of spirit, lulled and at peace
within my home’s companion walls
and beneath the one unlocked sky-
night-indigo, now, and holding
the fullness of a radiant moon
just a greeting’s length
from my kitchen’s open door.

Telling The Bees

I tend no hives where I can tie
black ribbons, I’ll bake no tasty
funeral cake to leave outside
your doors, I’m waiting for you
to gather near and land on my lap
if you must: come, there’s trust
between us and you shall hear

while I speak quietly of death.
I send no servant “drearily singing”
or messenger ringing a mourning bell
in the tower of an empty church.
Know it from my lips, the way
your ancients learned of plague
and sweating sickness.

Know of an illness called coronavirus,
a pandemic that’s touched
every country of the world.
A pestilence that brings a struggle
for breath, a racking cough,
and fever not even you could stop
with the flutter of your wings.

Cafes, cinemas and schools are closed.
Families isolate in their homes, shop
once a week, take solitary walks
and some find refuge in their garden:
search for you, as I’m searching now.
Too early in the year, perhaps,
but this is the time we praise you,

share the light of the paschal candle
“fed by melting wax, drawn out by mother bees.”
Hurry, dear ones, I need to see
the grace of your whirring flight
and swell of your stripy bodies fizzing
into open-petalled flowers.
I need to tell out my sorrow,

share my grief and pain, and afterwards,
I’ll ask you to keep faith
with the pattern of your working hours.
Visit me again, remind me of the sweetness
stored in your honeycombs
while I describe the warmth of candle flame
anointing each sunless night.

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