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Live Encounters Aotearoa New Zealand Poets & Writers April 2023
Not such a Good Friday, poems by Mark Laurent
Not such a Good Friday
It wasn’t the agony of nails,
but fiery stabs in the heart
that arrested my attention
as we left the Easter vigil.
I would’ve cried out
but I had no breath for words.
Held upon a cross of anxious arms
I was lowered onto the gurney.
An ambulance carried me down
some darkened Via Dolorosa.
A Covid-robed crowd of medics
pressed in on me
with cardiac monitors,
anaesthetic, encouraging words.
Jesus was offered vinegar –
a sour and meager reward for his quiescence.
They pumped me with morphine and blood thinners.
Like him, I prayed for it to finish,
though I knew it had only just begun.
No winding cloth for my body,
though thermal blankets seemed to calm
my trembling bones.
No spear thrust in the side
(these days they have gentler ways
to test for life-signs)
– a luer inserted expertly into my arm.
Darkly humming CT scanner yawns
like the open mouth of a tomb.
Orderlies – pall-bearers of the living –
lay me down and walk quietly away,
leaving me confined, apprehensive,
in the sepulchral belly of the machine.
Will I ever get out of this?
My will is irrelevant here;
forces of life and death
tug at me from electrode cup and IV line.
They say I’ll be here for at least three days,
and as much as I don’t want to believe them
I can’t imagine anywhere else right now…
Nurses fill the offices of the hours
with devotion, quietude, and tea breaks.
The world carries on
outside this cloistered place,
not minding my absence at all.
Sun and rain and celestial revolutions
turning night to day to night…
People out there in the well city
buying, selling, walking about, carrying on…
If I don’t rise again,
in a little while no-one may notice
that I’m gone,
except those ones who love me,
They are the reason
I’m hoping to return.
Datrise, my Sikh trainee nurse,
brings no spices to anoint my body,
but she has an angel’s touch with a hypodermic.
Waking, dozing, fitful but not unpleasant dreams.
Darkness, subterrannean voices
filter through walls, as permeable as stone
in this waiting place of souls.
I pray for the third day to dawn,
graves to open,
the clot that blocks my lung
to be rolled away like the Easter Sunday stone.
Thin light is filtering through curtains.
Somewhere I think I hear
a solitary bird singing
her dawn chorus.
The Fig Tree
Why did Jesus curse the fig tree?
It wasn’t doing anything wrong
standing quietly by the roadside
doing what a fig tree is meant to do
He had a point to prove
and his slow-growing companions
just weren’t getting it
A short, sharp shock was needed
to shake their branches of doubt
wipe the leaf-litter from their eyes
But the fig tree was no doubter
well acquainted with times and seasons
it knew its hour had not yet come
Jesus and that tree were brothers
offering their food to the hungry
two living parables on the same road
both dying before their time.
The Day I Accidentally Stepped Off A Cliff
I ran right off the edge once
my legs beating the air
like the first man who tried to fly
out in space with no point of contact
It didn’t last long
that first flight of mine
– gravity, & perhaps a small lack of faith,
saw to that –
But that moment has lasted for years
one of my golden memories
and every time I replay it
it’s like my flight lasted for hours
eternity takes hold of me
and the earth never rushes to meet me
but holds its breath in wonder.
© Mark Laurent
Mark Laurent is a professional musician and writer. He’s recorded over 20 albums, published 4 collections of poetry, an illustrated children’s storybook, and written articles and reviews for New Zealand and international magazines. He lives in Auckland.