Friday, April 3, 2015

Helena


( Somewhere in The Holy Land, 372 AD)

She tarnishes beautifully

in her silver age

not from years but sorrow found

in tracing her Savior.

 

She walks where He walked.

Dirt clings to her garments

like crushed pigment

that could paint the history

of Jerusalem.

 

The wind blows her veil

smelling of  salt and cedar,

the  burning scent of  nard --

 

The cross must be near.

 

Her breath tightens

and the lacings of her sandal

tangle in vines by a cave.

 

 

She almost falls but catches

her balance. A  flame is seen

lighting the stone socket

and the empress bends to enter.

 

Inside, two wooden beams

lie in the clutch

of rope and spider webs --

 

a cross discarded. She leans

over the lengthwise board

and weeps. Her slim fingers

probe the splintering wood

 

and she remembers how things

loosen then shed,  become relics

of passage: bird feathers, pine needles

a lizard's skin --

 

and here, the rood

stained with the agony

of Christ.
___________________________________________________


Helena was a Roman Empress and mother of the Emperor Constantine. She converted to Christianity and experienced a dream where she envisioned herself finding the "true cross that was used to crucify Jesus. In  approximately 327 AD, she made a pilgrimage to The Holy Land and set forth to accomplish this task. According to legend and Catholic doctrine, she found the actual cross and had it dismantled  into fragments. Holy relics to be carried home and then distributed throughout various churches in the empire. In later centuries, she was canonized and become known as Saint Helen Augusta. My version takes certain poetic liberties but remains faithful to the idea of how she pursued this dream to find the holy cross.

Nard (also known as spikenard) was an expensive,  perfumed oil used to anoint Jesus on the night of The Last Supper. It was also burned as incense in the Hebrew temples and mentioned in The Song of Solomon.


 

 

 

 

 

 

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