not of closing walls and stale air
but of a horizon unreachable
beyond stretching dunes.
you who were so sensitive to touch
you’d notice a woman’s fingers barely brush
the hem of your cloak
for forty days
did cradling the feet of your closest friends
washing clean the sweat and sand
etched into the sole’s every callus
feel almost too intimate to bear?
gazing up into their questioning eyes
after no one but devils and dust to talk to for so long
did you have to stop and catch your breath?
did your beloved’s fingers brushing your palm
as you passed him broken bread
set your skin on fire
with an anguished sort of pleasure?
was his head resting warm in your lap
after the meal, the wine, the storytelling
heavier than the whole world
leaning on your back?
and after the wine-warm room
after isolation revisited
in a tear-soaked garden
where best friends slept oblivious
were even the press of trembling lips
the hands that bound your wrists
the shoves of soldiers eager to get home for the night –
even these, were even these cherished
after weeks without the warmth of others’ skin?
isolation too –
know better than any
the devils that come to keep one company
when wandering alone from room to room
or over wasteland sands…
so come. teach us
to make an upper room
of any room we’re trapped in.
cook us a meal out of our distress
and break it like bread with us.
nourish our bone-deep loneliness
into a yearning deep enough to drink
so that when this is over, we never again
shirk the feet that await our washing
shun the hands outstretched for bread to share
shake off the cross a stranger needs help bearing –
and Jesus, as we wait out isolation
in temporary helplessness and fear
remind us there are some who dwell
always, always here.
If you this piece it in your own service, please credit it to Avery Arden and link to binarybreakingworship.com. I also invite you to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to let me know you’re using it!
About this poem:
My prayer for Maundy Thursday, 2020, in the midst of pandemic: come, Jesus, teach us to make an upper room of any room we’re trapped in.