Passover poems: “An experience of redemption, more or less…”

Mrs. Bracha Meshchaninov




House cleaned

more or less

kitchen surfaces covered

more or less

food ready

more or less

an experience of redemption

more or less




“The Seder”**



We chewed the hand-made bread

of redemption

and wine specially made

children primed for performance… performed

and wonderful guests came and prayed

yet his eyes were sad and her skin showed strain

We left Mitzraim***

but in pain we stayed.




*  Pesach = Passover, the Jewish holyday and festival

**  The Seder = a ritual feast of Passover, includes family and friends

re-telling the story of the Israelites’ flight from Ancient Egypt

***  We left “Mitzraim” = We left “Ancient Egypt”,

referring to The Exodus from slavery under The Pharaohs


Today, April 7th, is the first day of Passover 2012.

Jesus’ Descent from The Cross: 3 contemporary painters

Pauline Johnson: “I do not feel the thorns so much today…”


Pauline Johnson (“Tekahionwake”)

(Ontario Mohawk poet, 1861-1913)

“Brier: Good Friday”



Because, dear Christ, your tender, wounded arm

Bends back the brier that edges life’s long way,

That no hurt comes to heart, to soul no harm,

I do not feel the thorns so much today.


Because I never knew your care to tire,

Your hand to weary guiding me aright,

Because you walk before and crush the brier,

It does not pierce my feet so much tonight.


Because so often you have hearkened to

My selfish prayers, I ask but one thing now,

That these harsh hands of mine add not unto

The crown of thorns upon your bleeding brow.


Poema para Viernes Santo / “Good Friday” poem: Javier Álvarez


Javier Álvarez

“Good Friday”



It’s gone to the dogs, this afternoon;

a cold rain slaps my face,

the wind numbs my skin.

A bad day for running!

On the rock the rain’s turned to snow.

That proverb’s proven again:

Comes snow in October, seven months till it’s over.

Yes, a rotten day for running!

Dismal April afternoon,

not a soul in the street.

A darkness like winter’s

– the wrong day for rushing around!

Vast hellish afternoon

that the mind carves in verse:

“Save humankind, oh Lord, in this hour

of horror, of tragic destiny;

we know neither where we’re headed, nor whence we came…”

Gloomy night of death,

this evening in transit

–  Good Friday evening –

A terrible day to be running…away!




Editor’s note:

In Latin-American cultures Good Friday, traditionally, has been a day to

tread softly upon the ground – not to pound or stomp, or run.  The folk

belief is that we walk this day and night upon the body of Jesus.

Álvarez the poet may also be implying that we cannot run away from the

truth of pain, sacrifice, suffering.




Javier Álvarez

“Viernes Santo”



Tarde de perros;

la lluvia fría azota la cara,

el viento entumece la piel.

¡Mal día para correr!

En la peña el agua es nieve.

El dicho se cumple otra vez:

La de octubre, siete meses cubre *.

¡Mal día para correr!

Tarde desolada de abril,

ni un alma por la calle.

Oscuridad de invierno,

¡Mal día para correr!

Tarde de abismal infierno,

que la mente cincela en verso:

“Salva al hombre, Señor, en esta hora

horrorosa, de trágico destino;

no sabe adónde va, de dónde vino…”

Noche oscura de muerte

esta tarde de tránsito:

Tarde de Viernes Santo

– ¡Mal día para correr!




* “La nieve de octubre siete meses cubre”  (un refrán castellano)

Traducción del español al inglés / Translation from Spanish into English:

Lidia García Garay

Mike Finley: “Hot and Cold Running Good Friday” / “Un Viernes Santo corriente-caliente-y-frío”


Mike Finley

“Un Viernes Santo corriente-caliente-y-frío”



Día frío-dulce de abril

o mayo, y los bulbos

se agachan como cobardes

detrás de puertas atornilladas,

chubascos aislados

e incidencias de pecado

mojan las aceras

y humedecen la piel.


El agua mana de mí

mientras la tortura retuerce

mi sonrisa a una mueca,

las manos se hacen puños.

Tantas veces yo estuve apaleado por el camino

y miré hacia arriba y no había ningún velo

para agarrar el sudor.


Nuestro Señor, que está en el Cielo,

amo al Judío que se murió por mí

(aunque sé que es tontería),

y abril es un mes atontado y casi cruel.

Y los poemas son criaturas dando volteretas,

panfletos, circulares,

volando por

debajo de mis pies, y

la tierra que yo remuevo.



Traducción del inglés al español:   Alexander Best



Mike Finley

“Hot-and-Cold-Running Good Friday”



A cold warm day in April

or May, and the bulbs

crouch like cowards

behind bolted doors,

occasional showers

and occasions of sin

dampen the sidewalks

and moisten the skin.

Water flows from me

as the torture twists

my grin to a grimace,

my hands into fists.

How many times was I

battered by road and looked

up and there was no veil

to catch my sweat.

Our father who art in heaven,

I love the Jew who died for me

though I know it is nonsense,

and April is a foolish, cruelish month.

And poems are cartwheeling

creatures, flyers, circulars,

winging their way beneath

my feet and the earth I roll away.

José López Vásquez: One’s own personal “Calvary” / Su “Calvario” personal


José López Vásquez (nace/born 1986, Managua, Nicaragua)




No tuve última cena, no conocí huerto de olivos,

no tuve discípulos pero si un Iscariote.

Sobraron Caífaces, Pilatos, Heródes, para condenar

mis parábolas, pero no hubo un Barrabás que compitiera en

Pascua conmigo.

En mi tórrido sendero al Gólgota no hubo

Verónica ni Cirineo pero si hubo latigazos,

mofa y escupitajos.  En mi crucificción no

hubo un pretoriano que humedeciera al menos

con vinagre mis labios, ni un Dimas ni un

Gestas ni una María acompañándome.

Ningún Arimateano me bajó de la cruz.

Nunca resucité.







I had no Last Supper, I knew no olive grove,

had no disciples, only an Iscariot*.

There were plenty of Caliphs, Pilates and Herods to condemn

my parables, but there was no Barabbas that might’ve

competed with me at Easter.

On my torrid path to Golgotha there was

neither Veronica nor Simon of Cyrene but there were lashes of the whip,

jeers and gobs of spit.  At my crucifixion

there was no Praetorian guard who might’ve

moistened my lips with vinegar, neither was there a Dismas**

nor a Gestas** or a Mary Magdalene to keep me company.

Not a single Arimathean lowered me from the cross.

And I never rose from the dead.





**Dismas and Gestas, the Good Thief and Bad Thief,

crucified alongside Jesus

Translation from Spanish into English:   Alexander Best


William Blake: “Quinta-feira Santa” / Holy Thursday


William Blake (1757-1827)

“Quinta-feira Santa”



É coisa santa de se ver,

Em terra fértil e opulenta,

Deixar na miséria um bebê,

Nutrido por mão avarenta?


Este grito é uma canção?

Será ela de alegria?

E tantas crianças pobres?

É uma terra de indigência!


E seu sol nunca tem brilho.

Seus campos secos, desertos

Seus caminhos, com espinhos

E lá é um eterno inverno.


Pois onde quer que o sol brilhe

Onde quer que a chuva assente:

Bebês não podem passar fome

Nem miséria assustar a mente.



(1794, Canções da Experiência)

Tradução inglês-português:  Mário Alves Coutinho, Leonardo Gonçalves




William Blake (1757-1827)

“Holy Thursday”



Is this a holy thing to see

In a rich and fruitful land,

Babes reduced to misery,

Fed with cold and usurious hand?


Is that trembling cry a song?

Can it be a song of joy?

And so many children poor?

It is a land of poverty!


And their sun does never shine,

And their fields are bleak and bare,

And their ways are filled with thorns:

It is eternal winter there.


For where-e’er the sun does shine,

And where-e’er the rain does fall,

Babe can never hunger there,

Nor poverty the mind appall.



(1794, Songs of Experience)


Editor’s note:  In this poem Blake drew attention to the misery of orphans and foundlings in England.

And Maundy/Holy Thursday – the day before Good Friday – was when the monarch and the nobility

would make ostentatious displays of charity toward the poor.

Rainer Maria Rilke: “Upon Seeing Leonardo da Vinci’s ‘The Last Supper’, Milan, 1904”


Rainer Maria Rilke

“Upon Seeing Leonardo da Vinci’s ‘The Last Supper’, Milan, 1904”



They are assembled, astonished and disturbed

round him, who like a sage resolved his fate,

and now leaves those to whom he most belonged,

leaving and passing by them like a stranger.

The loneliness of old comes over him

which helped mature him for his deepest acts;

now will he once again walk through the olive grove,

and those who love him still will flee before his sight.


To this last supper he has summoned them,

and (like a shot that scatters birds from trees)

their hands draw back from reaching for the loaves

upon his word: they fly across to him;

they flutter, frightened, round the supper table

searching for an escape. But he is present

everywhere like an all-pervading twilight-hour.



Translation from German into English:  Albert Ernest Flemming



Rainer Maria Rilke

“Das Abendmahl”



Sie sind versammelt, staunende Verstörte,

um ihn, der wie ein Weiser sich beschließt,

und der sich fortnimmt denen er gehörte

und der an ihnen fremd vorüberfließt.


Die alte Einsamkeit kommt über ihn,

die ihn erzog zu seinem tiefen Handeln;

nun wird er wieder durch den Oelwald wandeln,

und die ihn lieben, werden vor ihm fliehn.


Er hat sie zu dem letzten Tisch entboten

und (wie ein Schuß die Vögel aus den Schoten

scheucht) scheucht er ihre Hände aus den Broten

mit seinem Wort: sie fliegen zu ihm her;


sie flattern bange durch die Tafelrunde

und suchen einen Ausgang. Aber er

ist überall wie eine Dämmerstunde.



Editor’s note:

In Leonardo da Vinci’s 1498 mural – as in Gianpietrino’s 1520 “copy” –

the painter has chosen from biblical scripture the moment

immediately after Jesus says:

Amen, I say to you
that one from among
you is going to
deliver me up [“betray me”],
one of you who is eating with me.

The painting depicts the disciples’ reactions to Jesus’ words.

Daniel Chirom: Leonardo and The Last Supper

Daniel Chirom (born 1955, Argentina)

Leonardo and The Last Supper


Under commission to Ludovico il Moro

I did “The Last Supper”, in careful detail, over a period of three years.

I made not a single mistake

– it was my intention that Christ and his apostles

would be disintegrating over time.

When perhaps the Supper is to be served again

another Ludovico will order me to re-do it

– at least until the wine runs out.

I trust in the eternal thirst of humankind.


.     .     .

Editor’s note:

Ludovico il Moro was Duke of Milan, and a patron of the arts.

In 1496 he commissioned Leonardo da Vinci to paint “The Last Supper”

on a wall inside a Dominican convent.  Da Vinci did not use

traditional fresco techniques, rather he experimented.

His method, and the paints he used, have not stood the test of time;

the mural has had to be restored repeatedly.



Translation from Spanish into English:  Alexander Best

.     .     .


Daniel Chirom (nace 1955, Argentina)

Leonardo y la última cena


Por encargo de Ludovico el Moro

deletreé durante tres años la Última Cena.

No cometí ningún error,

fue mi voluntad que Cristo y sus apóstoles

se fueran desintegrando con el tiempo.

Cuando la Cena sea nuevamente servida

otro Ludovico me encargará rehacerla

hasta que el vino vuelva a escasear.

Confío en la eterna sed del hombre.

.     .     .

Poème pour Dimanche des Rameaux: “L’Âne” / “The Donkey”: a poem for Palm Sunday


G. K. Chesterton





Quand les poissons volaeint et les fôrets marchaient

Et les figues poussaient sur les épines,

Lorsque la lune était sang

Á ce moment lá, je suis sûrement né.


Avec une tête monstrueuse et un braiement écouerant

Et les oreilles comme des ailes sans racines;

C’est la parodie marchante du Diable,

Sur ses quatre pattes.


Les brigands en loques de la terre,

D’ancienne volonté tordue;

M’affament, me fouettent; se moquent de moi:  je suis muet,

Je garde mon secret en silence.


Imbéciles! Car j’ai aussi eu mon heure;

Une heure acharnée et douce;

Il y a eu un cri près de mes oreilles,

Et des rameaux devant mes pieds.



Traduction en français / Translation from English into French:  Lidia García Garay




G. K. Chesterton (1874-1936)

The Donkey



When fishes flew and forests walked

And figs grew upon thorn,

Some moment when the moon was blood

Then surely I was born.


With monstrous head and sickening cry

And ears like errant wings,

The devil’s walking parody

On all four-footed things.


The tattered outlaw of the earth,

Of ancient crooked will;

Starve, scourge, deride me:  I am dumb,

I keep my secret still.


Fools! For I also had my hour;

One far fierce hour and sweet:

There was a shout about my ears,

And palms before my feet.