Women at the Cross: a collection of poems

Rev. Jeannie Kendall

Pilate’s Wife    Matthew 27:19

I still remember that night.
Waking in a cold sweat
Images etched in my mind
Fear a tight band round my heart.
I dared not sleep again
Lest nightmares return.
Knowing my words
Would have no power
But I must use them anyway.

He would not heed me.
And I may never
Sleep in peace again

Mary his mother John 19:25

It was the sound that stayed with me.
Hammer on nails,
Rhythmic, repeating
As regular as the contractions
Which hailed his entry to the world
And just as unrelenting.

But no birth here, only death.
My soul and spirit lacerated
I could feel nothing.
So smells, sounds, sights
Registered where feelings ran too deep.

The smell of blood – his this time
Where once it had been mine
The sound of crowds
Some whispering inanely,
Some crying out in grief
Where once Joseph had whispered encouragement
And I had cried out in pain.

And then a moment where time froze.
As our eyes met
And I held his gaze
As once before
When I had nursed him at my breast.

Love was there now, but also fear
As I saw mirrored there
Pain and abandonment too vast
For me to make it right.
And even if again
I could hold him to my breast
I cannot reach him now.

Mary Magdalene      Mark 15:40

I’d met him
When all hope was gone.
Each day
Dragging myself
Through meaningless routines
Whilst inside
Soul wracked
With constant pain
The past a prison
The present numb repetition
The future bleak
Every moment
Feeling only lost
And alone in the dark.

He only touched me once.
I stood,
Eyes to the ground
Ashamed of all I’d done –
And was –
And gently
He lifted my chin
So I could
Meet his gaze.

I could not name then
What I saw there-
So unfamiliar.
I’ve learnt now
To give it words
But then there were none.

I only knew
That all I was
And could be
Was held in his eyes:
Not what I’d done
Or hadn’t done
But the person he saw
Beneath the smiling death
My life had become.

And so I loved him.
And stand here now
Only because of that.
Enduring his darkness
As once he did mine
And will do
Till the end

Jesus’ Aunt John 19:25

‘Mary’s boy’.
Funny how we always
Called him that.
Not Joseph’s boy.
I’d always thought it was just
That mother-son
Indefinable link
And yet
As he grew
Somehow he seemed
Not quite to belong
To either of them
Or to anyone.
More his own person
Than anyone I had ever met.
Not other-worldly;
Instead more here, more fully alive
Than I could ever be.

Broke her heart
The day he left.
She cried more
Than for Joseph’s death.
It was if
A little of her died that day
Although she said
She’d always known
It would come to that
And the worst
Was yet to come.
“It was the myrrh”
She would say
As though that
Explained everything
But when I asked
She would just look away
As though remembering.
But now today
I remember
As I watch
Vinegar and hyssop
Run down
Like tears
And I cannot
Comfort her
As I weep
For Mary’s boy.

Woman from Galilee Luke 23:55

It had been a long journey
In every sense.
Cooler Galilee to hot-bed Jerusalem
Sun beating down.
But journey too from home
To this alien world
Of politics and power-play
With so much I sensed
But could not understand.
Long journey too
From hope to despair
From place where lovingly
I could supply his needs
To one where I could only watch
In helpless desperation
As, stripped of dignity
yet somehow with more grace
Than I had ever seen him
His life ebbed away
And with it all my hope.

And yet, and yet
There was something there;
Mystery too deep for words,
Beyond what I could see.

And amid the darkness
A seed was sown
That let me live again
And, even as I watched
The light in his eyes die,
Led me to hope beyond all reason.

The centurion’s wife Luke 23:47

“Just light duties today”
He called as he left.
I felt relief
Knowing he would return
With a smile I need not fear.
Unlike other times, when,
Somehow world-weary
He would come through the door
A mix of pain and anger in his eyes
And wake at nights
With nameless horrors
He could not erase
And I could not share.

But later that day
I smiled as he came home
But saw at once in his eyes
It would not be returned;
The curious darkness
Of those daylight hours
Somehow mirrored deep within his soul.
“Light duties?”
I whispered
Trying somehow to reach him
And he began to weep.