Date: Wednesday, April 5
Contributor: John Lawyer
Some of you may remember the large rubber tree that stood at the foot of the stairs to the north entrance lobby for many years. It had originally belonged to my mother; when my dad broke up housekeeping he sent it to us, still only about half it’s final size. When it eventually outgrew our home it was welcomed to St. Christopher’s, where it lived happily for many years. It became my custom to go clean off its leaves once a year on Good Friday, I don’t know why. I wrote the following poem after one of those annual washings:
So it has come to this,
At the last, it has come down to this:
Hatred, nails, being set at naught.
How is love here?
Thus I to the rubber tree
With warm water and a rag,
Being gentle with the leaves,
Lest they crack and bleed white.
Sweet Jesus, is this how I wash your feet,
After twenty centuries?
As if there weren’t enough poor around today
To succor, were I really serious,
But this is the task to which you have called me;
In this world one does what one can.
Up, down, branch by branch
So as not to lose track,
Each leaf, underside and top, stroke by stroke,
Whispering words of comfort
It’s not as easy as you might think,
Removing a year’s worth of dust --
Wondering how much longer either of us
Will be here to perform the rite.
To keep faith with the deed, Easter by Easter
Keeps me also true to self, neighbor, and God.
So year by year I come each Good Friday,
And find solace in this steady wiping.
At the end I am no wiser, no purer in soul,
No way a better person
(Though I hope no worse);
So we bless each other,
The rubber tree and I,
Then stay or go home to wait the Resurrection.