The Burning of Judas

Lord, in this field among the porcelain
a cough betrays the faint stuttering flare
of a torch lowered by a hidden hand.
We come with upraised branches,
ropes in our hands, yet veil ourselves-
in the muted turnings of the innocent leaves.

Lord, the scent of olives brings to mind
the trees of my own Kerioth, and how once I
at twelve years could not stretch up
to reach even the lowest limb.
My brother would come to lift me up,
then, laughing, leave me hanging there
until supper: I remember how
when I was fourteen he fell from a scaffold,
his life, about his father's business.
His name was Simon, Lord.

Raindrops at my feet. The evening twisted,
ripping the clouds in two, sending
a damp gust to scatter in my hair.
Laughter and thunder and lightning flare
reverberate against the beat of rain
scourging the leaves

And the breath of olives.
Faces sweat beneath the heavy torchlight,
staggering my feet.
...................Where are we now?
When we were children, laughing in the fields,
we spent our days running after summer,
the other seasons left behind.
Lord, this was a long time ago -
the boy running along the path to what, to this?
Here is the garden, the trees, and the night.

We can see only the leaves shifting,
at the first step, cut by a shard of rock.
The head turns at the shake of a stone
tumbled from its cave hollowed in the dust.

The night by now has crept into Kerioth,
tired of its dark dominion, invading the sky.
Quickly, I will do it quickly
Dog-toothed, sharpened in the May night;
a ravenous tiger the leaves crouching,
devouring our shadows

Master, master!


  1. Anonymous11:41:00 PM

    Between leaves shifting and shards of glass..I was bits and pieces, here and there. Lovely piece, I certainly related to family.

  2. Interesting...

    being slightly Aspergery in nature I am intrigued at the two references to the 'smell' of olives - meaning in this context the trees. I will havr to go out later today and have a good long sniff near an olive tree, because I haven't noticed they are particularly scented.

    I can see what you are trying to do there with the olive branch connection etc and the future echo of the hanging, but not sure yet. I suspect you are probably right - you strike me as someone who does their research.

    Also was that an intentional nod to Blake's Tyger which contrasts the pure innocent lamb with the burning of the Tyger in the forests of the night and wonders if God is proud of his handiwork in this instance?

    The lamb being a common symbol for Jesus and the Tyger thus a great symbol for Judas.

    Your final Master, master!

    Powerful and hauntingly recalling the

    Tyger, tyger.

    Then the 'dark dominion' reminding us of the Dylan Thomas poem 'and death shall have no dominion' - a subliminal reminder that despite his worst, the ultimate result of this 'betrayal' is not defeat but triumph.

  3. Yes, I am obsessed with research in my poetry. In one recent poem I used a simile of 'dragonflies' for helicopters in the Middle East in a first draft. Then I pored over entomological references for the specific geographic region to settle on 'wasps' for the final version.

    In addition, this poem, as you noted, has numerous references to classical and Biblical literature.

    I feel that a poem should have an immediate, visceral experience for readers - but should also provide more levels of meaning for those with the urge and willingness to unearth them.

  4. I agree - being of a more mundane bent - I call such poems 'onion poems' - I too love to provide layer upon layer for the reader to peel away.

    At some point the 'onion' should provoke the ultimate result - what my infant son used to call 'eye water' - either prompted by deep emotion, or if it is a 'funny' poem by laughter.

    Very satisfying to achieve but not at all easy to do. I am happy enough to just get that slight hair on the back of the neck effect. You seem to be on target most of the time which is impressive and good to read.

  5. I'm new here and a complete amateur in poetry so I don't know much about Aspergery, entomological references or onion poetry but I do know that this piece is truly and quite poignantly moving, a definite literary thumbs up :-) on to the archives I go then!

  6. Welcome, and thank you for the thumbs up! Hope you enjoy the archives!


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