The Passover Lamb comes to Jerusalem

– for Palm Sunday

We were afraid he’d pass
By us before we’d made it
To his feet,

So I told the girls to hurry,
And pestered the boy with his slow feet
To pick them up like he’d never done
Before, and grab his tunic while he’s at it.

But that’s my only one! He cried,
And I cried back – that’s all we’ve got
So that’s what we’re giving.
You’ll get it back, just hurry!

They were like cats on rooftops
And I was the mother cat leading the way,
Pushing through the crowds,
(Who’d ever seen such crowds before?)
The girls they held my hands
And the boy’s black head,
wove through the crowd in front,
until I lost it the shuffling and stomping
Of all of Jerusalem’s feet.

The chanting! I heard it slow and faint,
Thinking it a horse and cart rumbling across the stones,
But then we rounded the baker’s street
And it was the sound of every voice I’d ever known,
My neighbours and the strangers I’d pass daily,
The sound pounding like I was threshing grain with my own hands,
Loud and wide and deep as a rock closing a cave,
A lion waking.

Hosanna! Hosanna!
Hosanna to the Son of David!
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!

Every mouth open with those words,
Flooding the space between the buildings
With its round sound barreling through the everyday city
Like a ball storming its way through a field,
Stirring up the dust as it goes,

We were all stirred,
Even me, my mouth suddenly open too,
Chanting, singing along,

Hosanna!

And then he was there,
Just a slight man on a young donkey,
Leaning to one side as the donkey rounded
The street corner as it sloped its black shoulders,
Lumbering along the street stones.

He looked so still,
And yet when I looked hard at him
I could see that he was seeing every one of us,
Bold as we were, many as we were, pushing
Each other over all just to see him,
The one people were calling the messiah,
The promised one,
this Jesus of Nazareth.

We were waving our branches too,
The palms every one had remembered to pluck
On the way, and my hands were empty
But I raised them in the air and waved them too –
Not so that he would see me,
I felt in a strange way, even amidst all of that crowd,
That he already had,
But just to sing with every part of me,
To not let one piece of me miss the chance
To praise him as he passed.

It was like we were hungry,
Our open mouths, like they wanted to be filled,
Though they were filling the air with sound,
We were seeking something,
Waiting for something miraculous to happen,

He was crossing near us now, and the people,
My neighbours, were spreading clothes down
Everywhere, and I couldn’t even understand where all of it
Was coming from – we, the poor, who barely had a shirt between us –
Were suddenly filling a street with garments,
And that shy donkey was stepping his slow feet
On them.

Suddenly there was a black head between the ankles
Across the crowd, and two small hands reaching out,
And a familiar brown tunic laid carefully, but quickly
On the ground, just as the donkey would have stepped
Onto cold stone, and a face went up,
And a face went down,
My boy letting go
Of his tunic,
And the man looking down
On him in what seemed to me
To be love,

And coming from a mother,
I tell you I saw the love
Of a father in that man’s eyes,
And my son glowed so bright
I could have plucked
Him like a gem from a wall,
and held him close.

I think my song was sweeter then,
Or at least more mine,
The words were true,

We watched him go
Until he turned another corner,
The crowds so thick, the people running after him,
And we trailed behind in the thinning
Chant, the widening street,

til only we were left,
hungry for dinner, heading home,
The girls tripping over the loose branches and stones
And clothes, the boy suddenly at my side.

I reached a hand for his toussled black hair,
And it stayed there all the way home,
Only there did we remember the tunic left behind

It was a gift
the boy said
You can’t take back
A gift for a king.

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