Liz Berry’s “Scenes from ‘The Passion’: The First Path”

It’s easy for me to find fault with the poems I find in Poetry. That journal is the top, up there with the all-wonderful New Yorker, and it’s easy to hate the poems there at the top. It’s easy to say, “Oh goodness, I never would have chosen that for a title,” or “A flarf poem? Really? I’m so above flarf poems!” Or “Yeah, that’s randomly indent everything into beautiful ‘enjambment’, my a$$.”

But, other times, I can make it all about the poetry and finding something beautiful, and this poem is simply beautiful:

Scenes from “The Passion”: The First Path

BY LIZ BERRY

When you found me there was nothing beautiful about me.
I wasn’t even human

                                          just a mongrel
kicked out into the snow on Maundy Thursday
when all the world was sorrow,
when old girls’ hands were raw as they cracked
the ice on their birdbaths,
when the priest wept in Saint Jude the Apostle
as he knelt to wash the feet of an altar boy.
I was filth,

                    running away from God knows what,
my haunches sore with bruises,
my spine knuckling the ruin of my coat.
Running through the town

                                                      away from the horses
who bowed their heads to the donkey-bite,
away from the boy in the bus shelter

                                                                         who turned from me
to receive a snowflake
like a wafer on his tongue.
Lord help me

                           I did things I would once
have been ashamed of.
Now no one would come near me,

                                                                       they feared
the hunger that gnawed and whined in my bones,
the hurt I would carry into their houses.
Only you dared follow

                                             upon the track
of my bloodied paw prints in the ice,
where the trees held snow in their arms
like winding sheets.

                                     You came for me there
                                                                    close, low,
calling a name that was not mine.
Calling wench, my wench
as the tongues of the church bells rang mute.
At your scent on the air,

                                                I shot
through the woods — a gray cry —
so raw only the dusk could touch me
but you were patient,

                                            waited
through the dense muffled hours
until darkness dropped and I sank into the midden
behind the factory
and the chimneys cast a wreath of ash upon me.
                                      You touched me then,
                               when I was nothing but dirt,
took off your glove and laid your palm upon my throat,
slipped the loop of the rope,

                                               lifted me
into your arms and carried me home

                                                              along the first path.
In the banks the foxes barked alleluia alleluia.
The blizzard tumbled upon us like confetti
and I, little bitch, blue bruise,
saw myself in your eyes:

                                                  a bride.

–from the October 2014 issue (link here)

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