Holy Week poems 1. Veronica Wipes the Face of Jesus

by Sr Ann Catherine Swailes

There is an ancient legend that identifies Veronica, who comforted Jesus on the way to Calvary, with the woman whom he healed of a haemorrhage earlier in His ministry.  

Salted with grains of blood his cheek

Pearls flung from the crazy crown 

That jaunts on his burning, sweat-thatched head

Through the leering, holy-day town:

 

The dizzy clang of the soldiers, and the jerky falling down

Like a broken doll in the dust, and the spit and the slime. 

And time pleats back like a robe and I gasp and I bow

To the stench and the shame and the sting

Of other blood, in another crowd, 

In another, simpler spring. 

In that hidden, stagnant place, I feel the kick and the dance

Of pattering mercy, quickening grace, my unpractised fingers glance

 At his shining, tattered face, and fast 

I hold, as shielding him, lulling him then,

comfort-clothed in Jerusalem:

I stand tall, a mother at last.

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