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An Easter Poem (John Updike)

Seven Stanzas of Easter

Make no mistake, if He rose at all

it was as His body.

if the cells disillusion did not reverse, the molecules

reknit, the amino acids rekindle,

the Church will fall.

 

It was not as the flowers,

each soft Spring recurrent;

it was not as His Spirit in the mouths and befuddled eyes of

the eleven apostles.

it was as His flesh: ours.

 

The same hinge, thumbs and toes,

the same valved heart

that pierced, died, withered, decayed and then

regathered out of enduring Might

new strength to enclose.

 

Let us not mock God with metaphor,

analogy, sidestepping transcendence;

making of the event a parable, a sign painted in the faded

credulity of earlier ages:

let us walk through the door.

 

The stone is rolled back, not paper-mache,

not a stone in a story,

but the vast rock of materiality that in the slow grinding of

time will eclipse for each of us

the wide light of day.

 

And if we will have an angel at the tomb,

make it a real angel,

weighty with Max Planck’s quanta, vivid with hair, opaque

in the dawn light, robed in real linen,

spun on a definite loom.

 

Let us not seek to make it less monstrous,

for our own convenience, for our own sense of beauty,

lest, awakened in one unthinkable hour, we are embarrassed

by the miracle,

and crushed by remonstrance.

 

(Written for a religious arts festival sponsored by the Clifton Lutheran Church of Marblehead, MA) Taken from John Updike, Seventy Poems, Penguin Books, 1972.

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