Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Seven Stanzas at Easter

I intended to put this arresting poem by John Updike on my blog at Easter. Better late than never, I suppose—and it is still the Easter season. Christ is risen!

Make no mistake: if He rose at all

it was as His body;

if the cells’ dissolution did not reverse, the molecules 

reknit, the amino acids rekindle,

the Church will fall.

It was not as the flowers, 

each soft Spring recurrent;

it was not as His Spirit in the mouths and fuddled 

eyes of the eleven apostles;

it was as His Flesh: ours.

The same hinged thumbs and toes,

the same valved heart 

that—pierced—died, withered, paused, and then 

regathered out of enduring Might 

new strength to enclose.

Let us not mock God with metaphor,

analogy, sidestepping transcendence; 

making of the event a parable, a sign painted in the

faded credulity of earlier ages:

let us walk through the door.

The stone is rolled back, not papier-mache, 

not a stone in a story,

but the vast rock of materiality that in the slow

grinding of time will eclipse for each of us 

the wide light of day.

And if we will have an angel at the tomb,

make it a real angel, 

weighty with Max Planck’s quanta, vivid with hair, 

opaque in the dawn light, robed in real linen 

spun on a definite loom.

Let us not seek to make it less monstrous,

for our own convenience, our own sense of beauty,

lest, awakened in one unthinkable hour, we are

embarrassed by the miracle,

and crushed by remonstrance.


© 1961 by John Updike (Written for a religious arts festival sponsored by the Clifton Lutheran Church, of Marblehead, Mass.)

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