Poem For The Sunday Lectionary (Lent 4, Yr C)

RETURN
(Luke 15: 1-3, 11-32)

The shadow of a cloud moves over the road,
over the fields, passes the distant house.
You shade your eyes from uncovered sun,
your brown hand holding dirt
under brittle nails.

There in the fields your father’s workers
are bending. Your empty stomach moans.
You’ve rehearsed your speech. Shuffled the words
in your mouth like dusty pebbles – the taste
of shame, bitter, sharp as stone.

How frail those words seem now as you pause
on your oh-so-weary feet, the smell of the sows
still on your clothes, stuck like the memory
of other words: the ones you used that day
you demanded your inheritance –

as if your father, to you, were already dead.
Now you wonder what there will be
in those eyes, what words will come
from his mouth. Your brother you know:
strict, unbending, rigid as the tools

that work the crops; his words will be iron blades.
And you feel you deserve nothing else
from the ones you insulted and deserted.
But your hunger today overpowers your fear
and you start your feet on the long dirt lane

that leads to the house of your father.
There is a stir in the field. A figure shouts,
a man is running toward you. And suddenly
time seems to speed all motion as the earth
tilts down toward that figure, the familiar face,

the arms so strong, the arms that now reach
to enfold you; and the voice you’d forgotten
calls for a robe and a ring and a feast prepared;
and the world itself is blurring, it’s blazing,
as light through your tears begins dancing;

and there is your brother, last to come in,
and rather reluctantly smiling; but
the music plays, and you think what you hear
is all heaven and your father singing,
and the words to the song are all the same word,

for it’s love that you need:
love that you left,
love you have found in returning.

Copyright ©2016 by Andrew King