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Poetry By
  Nina Romano

Published on: 10/9/2009
Good Friday

This morning, I went to confession.
I hadn't gone in almost a year,
which was a surprise, even to me.
For a penance I received the Stations of the Cross.
I don't know how to say the stations,
but was far too embarrassed to admit it
to the elderly priest, absolving me.
So I figured to try my best at each
of the fourteen stations, which I found odd --
why not an even dozen? Or a baker's dozen?

Seven plaques line the wall to the left
of a central door dividing the church in half,
the other seven situated on the right.
I stopped at each station, noticing
the hangings were hand-carved of wood.
Nothing fancy, no paint, no elaborate colors
no porcelain or ceramic, gilt, gold or precious stones.
They were small, unpainted wooden plaques,
which gave them an austere look,
and me a sense of extreme humility.

I contemplated each position of Christ:
before Pilate, being scourged and crowned,
taking up the cross, falling with it, being nailed to it,
dying on it, and being taken down.
The last one depicted a heart-rending pietá
of Christ outstretched across his Mother's lap
enfolded in her arms and veil.
Was Mary even at the crucifixion?
Wouldn't each nail driven into her son
have been nail in her own heart?
Would she have not died before him from
a shattering, splintering, sustaining grief?

I said the prayers of my childhood
at each of the fourteen places I stopped:
the Our Father, the Hail Mary, the Glory Be
and before these I said a novena prayer
I used to recite each and every day.
Was I wrong not to tell the priest?
I felt God will not judge me for this;
I think somehow it pleased him I prayed --
sorrowful for Christ's sufferings
and those of his mother -- the best way I could.

Later, I prepared artichokes for Easter Sunday.
One uses lemons or the chokes darken as if spoiled.
I didn't have any lemons so I used limes.
I couldn't find my wooden squeezer,
and so I plunged a knife into half a lime
squished it around and got all the juice out.
I also punctured the middle of my hand,
and my thoughts jumped back two-thousand years
to the wounds on the hands of Christ,
jumped back to earlier in the day
when I contemplated the nails in His hands and feet.

After I lined the pot with quartered, limey chokes
I cleaned a can puncher combination wine opener --
a fifties old kind -- a yellow plastic affair,
rust-encrusted, the soldered bolt rimmed with glunk.
I sanded off the rust, then held a small screwdriver,
for tiny screws on eyeglasses, and with it worked
around the bolt, till it slipped puncturing my hand
and my thoughts jumped back two thousand years
to the wounds on the hands of Christ,
jumped back to earlier in the day
when I contemplated the nails in His hands and feet.

And so it seemed to me,
the priest assigned a penance
which I carried out but once,
yet lived vicariously twice more.
I meditated at each of the stations
of Christ's journey with His cross
"O Saviour, as Thou hang'st upon the tree"
reciting by rote the words of the poem
"Good-Friday 1613 Riding Westward,"
written by a metaphysician, a poet, my favorite,
John Donne, who for the sake of ambition,
left Catholicism for good, while I tarried a mere year,
with quivering faith and insouciant skepticism,
but for my soul's sake, penitent and full of remorse
prayed and meditated on the stations of the cross.
We're all riding west, riding
toward our own crosses
riding the crest of human bondage,
mortality and death.

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