Poem for the Sunday Lectionary (Lent 5, Yr C)

THE ANOINTING
(John 12: 1-11)

Already the sun has set, pulling the light from the sky behind it.
Already the shadows have detached themselves from lamps
and clustered in the corners of the room.

As the smells of the eaten meal begin to fade, the talk to rise,
you sense the time has come to take the jar, the alabaster jar,
the one you have kept so long, and almost holding your breath,

you kneel at the feet of Jesus.
His eyes on you are gentle, seeming to see into your heart,
into your own private shadows, but his love casts out your fear

as you untie his sandals’ thongs and open the lid of the jar
to the powerfully fragrant amber-coloured nard.
The oil slowly pours. The first drops hit the ankles, flow

downward over the bones toward the rough skin of his heels,
spreading over the curved top of the foot. Still you pour this thanks,
this liquid praise, running it to his toes, dripping it from the insteps

while the fragrance builds and builds, ascending like the incense
in the temple, rising from this altar of bones and skin,
skin a shade of road dust, veins the colour of sorrow

which you drape with your hair of midnight, letting it fall
and tumble, and as you use your hair like a towel the fragrance soaks
you both, smell of awe and holiness, smell of love and sacrifice,

scent of light and shadow in a wave like something approaching
that will be stronger than death and burial, that will fill the house
of mind and heart like a perfumed burst

of dawn.

Copyright ©2016 by Andrew King

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