Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865), poem by Day Williams

ABRAHAM LINCOLN

(Feb. 12, 1809–April 15, 1865)

Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C.

I.

Obedient to Father God’s command,

Aware that I am dust and ashes borne

Through space at speeds I cannot comprehend,

I ask the Holy Spirit to relate
Through me, a sinner saved by grace not works,
How God has moved through history in men

And women who were individuals
With courage and resolve to follow Him.
For wisdom is to let God lead and love,

As Dante welcomed God’s control and grace,
And Milton called the Spirit as his guide,
And if another has a higher art

In any language known on Planet Earth
Or in the voids that humans overcome,
Let there be light upon his worth and works,

Let him reflect the glory of the Lord,
Who made the heavens and the earth, produced
The man from dust of ground, and made a soul

That lived by breathing in his nostrils breath
Of life, that he could be a friend of God.
How character is formed is mystery

To us who look from outside in, at acts
Instead of soul and spirit, though by words
And actions men express their inner springs.

With outward signs historians must be
Content, and poets may surmise the words
And thoughts which records fail to show, until

The day when all’s revealed, the veil’s removed,
The Bride of Christ is face to face with God.
For wisdom is to know the will of God

And follow it in truth and holiness,
In love that sacrifices selfish gain,
As character is formed in that pursuit.

II.
Where greatness starts is hard to know–is it
Predestined from before the miracle
We call conception in the way that God

Told Jeremiah his prophetic call
Was known before he was within the womb?
God can raise men of greatness from all walks

Of life, from palaces and shepherds’ fields.
From desert lands He raised up Abram, who
Lived by his faith, and changed his name when He

Promised that Abraham would have a son
And would be nations’ father, though his wife
Was ninety years of age, too old to bear

A child unless the Lord did miracles.
When called to sacrifice the promised child,
The father trusted God and raised his knife

In his obedience to kill his son,
And God rewarded his devoted heart
By sparing Isaac’s life, and gave a ram

Which substituted as the sacrifice.
Almost four thousand years passed by (between
Them was the birth, the ministry, the death

And resurrection of the Lamb of God)
Until another Abraham was born
To Tom and Nancy Lincoln, pioneers,

In a Kentucky cabin built of logs
That had one door, a floor of pressed-down dirt,
One window and a chimney made of sticks

And clay that carried smoke to winter skies.
“He’ll never come to much,” said Dennis Hanks,
The uncle of the homely child who wailed

At entry to a world of sin and blood.
A man has seldom been more incorrect,
For this new Abraham would learn of strength

Through secret power in obedience.
Young Abe grew tall on bacon and salt pork,
Wild turkey, venison, hot bread and cakes,

Which Nancy cooked on iron pots and pans.
His father tilled the land with wooden plow
To grow his corn and beans while Abe cut wood

And stacked the logs, packed coals, and kindled fires.
A lawsuit over title to the land
Encouraged Thomas Lincoln to remove

(A future lawyer in his family)
To Perry County, Indiana soil
Where settlements were sparse, and earth was rich.

III.

But milksickness took Nancy Lincoln’s life
At thirty-six, Abe whittling pine wood pegs
That held together planks the men had shaped

For Nancy’s coffin, and they buried her
Beside a path where deer ran through the woods.
The boy, who would in manhood hold a house

Together as it warred against itself,
Whose words would consecrate a battlefield,
Shed tears when Tom and Dennis buried her,

His childhood dying on a winter day.
His heart alone could understand its grief.
In thirteen months Tom married Sally Bush,

Who took a liking to young Abe, acquired
New clothes for him, and prompted him to read.
Abe read the Bible–source of Lincoln’s style

And love of righteousness declared in law–
And Pilgrim’s Progress, Life of Washington,
Aesop’s Fables, history, and DeFoe.

The home-schooled boy and future President
Grew up in Indiana, and became
A storyteller and a wit who worked

On farms, on flatboats and in blacksmith shops,
A man experienced at many tasks
And comfortable with people high and low.

On Sundays people went to meeting, men
Attired in deerskin pants and moccasins,
The women dressed their best, and neighbors talked

Of hunting game, of crops and children’s growth,
Until the Baptist preacher took a text
And preached the Gospel to the backwoods folks.

God-breathed, inscribed by men in holy fear,
The Word of God is sharper than a two-
Edged sword: it penetrates to split the soul

And spirit, joints and marrow; it is judge
Of thoughts and attitudes of human hearts.
The preacher’s Word sliced through the heart and bones

Of unschooled folks who lived by faith not sight,
And made a home in Lincoln’s heart and mind.
In eighteen-thirty Abe packed up again,

Driving a wagon drawn by oxen team
North of the Sangamon in Illinois.
Now six foot four, two hundred fourteen pounds,

He won New Salem’s praise when he prevailed
Against a bully in a wrestling match.
When Chief Black Hawk rode with five hundred braves

Across the river, Lincoln volunteered,
For duty called, and he was strong and bold.
Elected captain of a company,

He led this band, this “hardest set of men,”
Into no battles, and he had to save
An Indian who wandered into camp

From frontier soldiers eager to destroy
All Indians, including friendly ones.
The man who would emancipate the slaves
Thus stood alone, as he would often stand
Alone, to guard against abuse of force,
Protecting innocence from injury,

Obedient to mercy’s higher law.
Back in civilian life, declared a Whig,
He dared to stand against the crowd,

For all the Jackson Democrats enjoyed
The popularity their President
Had gained as military superstar.

IV.

Upon defeat for public office, Abe
Took different jobs: he ran a general store
And managed a post office; he split rails,

Worked at a mill, and surveyed land, then ran
Again and won in eighteen-thirty-four
And eighteen thirty-six, an able hand

At politics who linked his words to strength.
No abolitionist, he took the road
Between extremes, and made no enemies.

In his spare moments at his store, he read
On principles in Blackstone’s works,
Reciting definitions of the rights,

The wrongs, and remedies in English law,
Going at law in earnest, reading books
Until his eyes were red and glazed as though

A fire was burning under strips of ice.
In later years he told the men who asked
About a course of study in the law,

“Your resolution to succeed is more
Vital than any other single thing.”
He read and worked, and was enrolled with oath,

Attorney and a counsellor at law.
Licensed to practice law in every court
In Illinois, he rode the Circuit, learned

To pay attention to minutiae, used
The law and common sense to sway the judge,
And won respect for fairness, honesty,

And arguments abundant in their wealth
Of illustrations, principles, and wit.
Committed to the law and public life,

Where records show successes and defeats,
His life is not so difficult to trace, except
For the events behind his romances

With women: Ann, who died of fever in
Her early years, and made a mumbling ghost
Of Lincoln; Mary Owens, who refused

To marry him; and Mary Todd, ten years
His junior, who repeated vows with him
Inside her sister’s home one winter day.

“Love is eternal” said the words inscribed
Upon the ring he gave to her, whose tongue
Could terrorize delivery boys and maids,

And taught sad Abraham longsuffering
And patience, virtues leaders must acquire
To persevere through blizzards, hail and rains.

V.

Sometimes the spirit in a man compels
His rise to greater altitudes, as when
Napoleon ascended to become

A General and Emperor of France.
Sometimes the Lord directly intervenes
And gives a mission to a person, as

When He persuaded Moses from within
A burning bush to rescue Israelites
From bondage to Egyptian tyranny;

And other times the tides in men’s affairs
Force new decisions, pressing men up high
To heights they never dreamed they would attain.

Thus Lincoln, married man and family man,
A leader in the bar of Illinois,
Would have remained to practice law, obscure,

Unrecognized, a lawyer with a wit–
If slavery had remained in status quo.
When Stephen Douglas introduced a bill

That could extend the evil, slavery, to
The territories, Lincoln was aroused,
And, ignorant that higher goals were his

In time, he spoke to re-elect a man
Who also wanted slavery kept apart
In Southern states, without new lands to claim.

In fifty-eight, debates began between
Contenders for a Senate seat in Illinois,
As Lincoln rose to bear his cross, and said,

“A house divided cannot stand,” the words
Of Jesus when the Pharisees declared
That He drove out the demons by the power

Of Satan, for the aim of Lincoln was
To keep the nation from a civil war
In which the demons dominated souls.

VI.

That men and women strive to force their wills
On other people, whether due to race,
Political belief, defenselessness,

Or other pretext for their prejudice,
Is proven throughout history, in Rome
And Caesar’s wars, and with Cortez and Mao,

The Nazis, Huns, Czars, Mongol hordes; that God
Allows oppression to bewilder men
So that His glory radiates in hearts

Is also shown in Gospel verse, as when
The Lamb of God, before His followers,
Restored his vision to the man born blind.

Their consciences consumed in lust for gold,
Slavetraders profited by selling blacks
From Africa to Southern men to till

Plantations, feed their stock, and pick their crops.
To right a wrong whose poison branches stretched
For several centuries is not achieved

By swinging axes at the trunk for one day.
For decades Abolitionists spoke out
Against the wickedness of slavery–

Such men as Lovejoy, Howe, and Garrison–
Who added kindling to the Yankee fire,
And then a preacher’s daughter wrote a book

That started flames across America.
The movement only needed one who’d die
To further human liberty, and God

Had one selected and reserved to give
His life to whip the flames of discontent.
Old Testament-styled prophet, radical,

John Brown had failed to spark a slave revolt,
But he knew how to die a martyr’s death,
And he foresaw that only blood would purge

The crimes committed by a guilty land,
With hands that planned to brand the runaways,
A land which had denied identities

To persons for the colors of the skins.
His body lay a-moulderin’ in the grave,
And few could see calamity ahead

When the conventions met with candidates,
With speeches, music, screams, parades and votes.
“The taste is in my mouth a little,” Abe

Reported to his friends who said he might
Be nominated for the President.
The moving hand of God in history

Selects the instruments at His command,
And no plan prospers counter to the will
Of God, the God of liberty, for where

The Holy Spirit is, is liberty.
Our knowledge of the push and pull
Of great events is colored when we know

Results participants could not foresee,
And nomination by Republicans
Of Lincoln as their candidate surprised

The politicians, though in retrospect
We see the choice was foreordained to save
The Union from division and defeat.

VII.

The candidate was born in dirt and sweat,
Had no political machine to match
His competition, but was known to be

A moderate, though this was less than true.
More zealous than a scientist who probes
The secrets of the universe with tests

And theories, Lincoln sought experiment
In Constitutional obedience.
As God gives grace to humble men, and strikes

The proud from heights, He lifted Lincoln up
As President to press experiment
Beyond the explanation of poor words,

For Lincoln told a group who wanted peace,
“The Constitution will not be preserved
Until obeyed in every part of each

Of the United States, let grass grow where it may.”
His rival, Douglas, from debates three years
Before, held Lincoln’s stovepipe hat for half

An hour as the new President addressed
The nation on the brink of civil war,
And asked his fellow countrymen to trust

In Him who never has forsaken this
Favored land to conduct them from distress.
A pragmatist and visionary, he

Summoned the mystic chords of memory
To swell the Union’s chorus and to touch
The better angels of our nature, which

Had disappeared before the year had closed:
The chorus sang angelic hymns no more,
And turned instead to cannons, swords and guns,

To blood and dust, to horses’ shrieks, to mud
And mangled limbs, death rattles, shallow graves,
To concentration camps and ships on fire,

To fury of the friendships severed by
The love of self and money, as hatred steamed
Like venomed vapors in a sulfur cave.

Insomniac, he wandered rooms at night,
Endured reports both false and true, relied
On Him whose favor rested yet on those

Who dared experiment with liberty,
The government not by the rights of kings,
Not by the swords of military coups,

But by the people, individuals
With common wisdom by the grace of God,
With wisdom’s seven pillars as support,

The liberty to worship God without
The persecution of the state, the chance
To speak their minds in public forums, the right

To plan, to build, to plant, to love, to move,
To earn a profit and to make a home
Unhampered by police and servicemen,

Or bureaucrats with guns to back their rules.
He saw the storm approach and knew the hand
Of God was in the winds and blackened clouds.

Confederates, who knew the Yankees had
Low food supplies inside their fort, discharged
Their guns and cannons, and set fires that made

The Union yield, beginning war which both
The sides believed would end in several months.
But John Brown saw the truth before his death:

To purge a country of its sins takes blood,
The blood of young and old, the blood of kind
And cruel, blood of innocence, the blood

Of wickedness, the blood of butchers’ sons
And daughters, blood of housewives, farmers, blacks
And whites, storekeepers, teachers, blacksmiths, blood

Of mothers, fathers, newlyweds, the blood
Of privates, generals, sailors, schoolboys, blood
Of horses, chickens, pigs, cows, dogs and mules,

The blood of slaves, the blood of Presidents.
The battles of Bull Run, Antietam Creek,
In Fredericksburg, in Shiloh, Chancellorsville,

In Gettysburg and Vicksburg, Sherman’s March,
Atlanta–thousands fell in sacrifice,
The blood of sheep and goats to purify

The land which had offended Him who rules,
Invisible, in love and holiness,
With righteous judgments that appease His wrath.

VIII.

A man who suffered melancholy spells,
Abe wandered, wondered, worried, room to room,
He wrestled with the angel of the Lord

All night, but no angelic ladder led
Him on, the wilderness was dark, the path
Was lined with thorns, and guides were hard to find

Amid the press’s ridicule, the frauds,
The office-seekers lining White House halls,
And military men who failed to fight.

He aged with speed, face furrowed by his loads,
This man who quoted poetry at home,
Who loved to laugh with friends, who spoiled his boys,

Lost one to fever, and he had to tell
His wife, “Control your grief, or it will drive
You mad,” this man who bore a nation’s pain

Bore malice toward no man, and charity
Toward all, and visualized a people healed
From wounds of war and bloody sacrifice.

His prime concern to save the Union, Abe
Had no desire at first to free the slaves,
But when the battles went the Rebel way,

The President resolved he would proclaim
The liberty of slaves, and took advice
To time it with a Union victory,

Thus changing history and Judgment’s wrath,
Obedient to Providence’s will.
As woodcutters select their axes’ blades

To chop the elms and pines that scrape the sky,
The President selected generals,
Discarded them, replaced them, and advised

Them ’til the Union Army was well-honed
With Unconditional Surrender Grant,
The one whom Lincoln could not spare because

He fought, in charge of veterans who brought
The rebel army to retreat, defeat–
And Washington rejoiced when Richmond fell.

His years of patience justified at last,
The weary President, whose death was close,
Stood still and saw salvation of the Lord,

And took a barge to Richmond when it fell.
“There’s the Messiah,” said the blacks, who kneeled
And kissed the feet of Lincoln, who replied,

“That is not right. Kneel only to the Lord,
And thank Him for the liberty you will
Enjoy. I am a humble instrument

Of God, but you may rest assured that while
I live no one shall shackle you, and you
Shall have the rights which God has given to

All the citizens–you’re free as air;
Obey God’s laws, thank Him for liberty.”
With Lee’s surrender on an April day

By woods on a white road at the court house
In Appomattox, four years of war were done,
The nightmare having vanished in the blood,

The blood atoning for the nation’s sins.
As danger’s night retired, the star of peace
Returned to shine above the broken land.

IX.

As Lincoln planned to bind the nation’s wounds,
He dreamed one night he went from room to room
In the White House to search the source of sobs,

And came at last to the East Room, in which
Some soldiers stood as guards around a corpse
Upon a catafalque as mourners wept.

He asked, “Who’s dead in the White House?” to which
A soldier said, “The President was killed
By an assassin!” then the mourners’ cries

Of grief awoke him from this dream of death
Which lingered with the man like Banquo’s ghost.
He told his family of his dream, and that

The Bible told how God and angels spoke
To men in sleep, revealing truth in dreams.
Good Friday eighteen sixty-five was good

To honor crucifixion of the Lord,
Good as that sacred day commemorates
The love the Father lavished on His sons

By sending us His one and only Son
As perfect sacrifice for every sin,
Good as it signifies that man’s redeemed

And has an Advocate who stands before
The throne of God to plead on our behalf,
Good as it means grace, mercy, peace and love;

But for the citizens who’d suffered war,
And for the President who bore the weight
In manly strength, the day was Lincoln’s dream

Fulfilled, his death at an assassin’s hand.
The Savior of the Country lay in state,
The funeral procession took him back

To home in Springfield, Illinois, and he
Was buried in the grasses at Oak Ridge,
The President of the United States,

A martyr to the cause of liberty,
Not slave, not master, but a common man,
Believer in democracy’s great hope,

Obedient to God’s commanding hand,
The humble man who rose to save a land,
Who held the house together through belief,

Whose death tolled bells of all the people’s grief.

~Day Williams

Andrew Jackson, Savior of New Orleans

Andrew Jackson, Savior of New Orleans

As God called Gideon from winepress floor
To war against the Midianites, so He
Called Jackson–lawyer, judge–from courthouse doors
To lead his rag-tag men to victory.

Not sword nor bullet stopped Old Hickory,
Not dysentery or a barefoot walk
For forty miles, not orders from D.C.
To have his troops disperse, nor to corral a throng

Of rich and poor, and blacks and whites, along
With Choctaw braves and pirates in New Orleans.
He set a battle plan with separate prongs,
Drilled them, prepared, for he was born for storms.

A leader, resolute, with strategy
Can meet and overwhelm a mighty foe:
He placed his sharpshooters to hide yet see
The British soldiers at the morning glow.

Men fired from ramparts at the British red,
Bright targets in the rising fog who fell
Like stalks of sugarcane in rain and spread
Across the battlefield while Jackson yelled

Encouragement to men to overcome
The enemy, who finally retreated,
For the King of England’s fighting force,
Strong, well-equipped, had to admit defeat.

With strategy, Old Hickory had won.
The Savior of New Orleans, kind and fierce,
Told his admirers that “we shall become
The strongest nation in the universe.”

~Day Williams

Trust Not in Mortal Man

Trust Not in Mortal Man

It is better to trust in the Lord 

than to put confidence in man.

~Psalm 118:8

Don’t put your trust in mortal men:

They’ll only let you down;

Better to trust Lord Jesus Christ

And stand on solid ground.

~Day Williams


PONTIUS PILATE

PONTIUS PILATE

(Ruled Judea 26-36 A.D.)

“What is truth?” ~John 18:38

My Claudia! Come out of there! I need you!
That crowd of Jews is driving me insane
With their demands that shatter Roman rules.

Beside the Tiber, from the seven hills,
We Romans rule the world with swords and laws
Superior to every power known

On earth or heaven in all history.
No other city-state has brought such peace
And economic favor on the lands.

With temples, gardens, amphitheaters,
Parks, circuses, baths, roads, and aqueducts,
Rome has surpassed the cities of the world,

In Pergamum, Phoenicia, Ephesus,
Brittania, Syria, and Judea–
The lands we’ve subjugated to our will.

I am a Roman citizen, my dear,
To whom the people’s good is highest law.
These Jews, this stubborn race, demands the death

Of Jesus, saying he has claimed to be
A King, as though that claim were something new.
There’s nothing new beneath the sun, their Law

And Prophets say the same, and it is so.
It shames the gods for Caesar, a mere man,
Who walks the seven hills on feet of clay,

To say he is a god–do not be shocked,
My dear companion, mother of our boys.
Self-righteousness is unbecoming, dear,

On you, like drops of mud that soil a gown.
You know they talk the same in rooms from Rome
To Athens, Corinth, and Jerusalem.

It’s true that the Sanhedrin has opposed
Me other times on their religious grounds.
After Tiberius appointed me

Judea’s governor, the army moved
Its headquarters from Caesarea to
Jerusalem at my command, a change

That made good sense strategically, my dear.
The marching troops were awesome to behold,
Their armor polished, horses dressed with plumes,

And soldiers carried standards overhead
As crowds admired their strength and discipline.
The soldiers’ standards bore the image of

The Emperor, which was the proper step,
For his authority extends this far.
The Jews, those most religious people, called

It desecration and idolatry,
And claimed that they would rather die than yield.
“We have no King but God,” they said to me,

And I, I am a man of reason, dear–
Euclid and Aristotle taught me much–
So I accommodated touchy Jews,

And made the army take the standards back.
Nor did the Jews approve when I had shields,
The golden shields inscribed with names of gods,

Hung up within the palace where I stayed
Upon Mount Zion, holy mountain to
The Jews, with holy this and holy that.

Their protest reached the Emperor, who made
Me take them down, disgracing gods, I say.
If Jews may worship their Jehovah’s name,

Shall we not honor Roman gods in turn?
The Jews want justice so long as it is
Their form of justice, and I say they’re wrong.

A man may worship any god he wants
So long as his devotion is sincere.
The world has room for many gods, the Jews

Have theirs and we have ours, and if I had
To fight more battles, as I did when young,
I’d take the Roman gods to watch my steps,

And not the God of Moses, who did not fight
When Roman legions conquered Palestine.
We have been kind and good as conquerors,

We let them worship as they please so long
As they pay taxes and maintain the peace.
These Jews, these stubborn zealots for a god

Who’s disappeared, were close to a revolt
When I took money from their temple, funds
From the redemption of their vows, to build

An aqueduct to carry water to
The crops, the livestock and the people–who
Cares where the money comes from when it’s used

For public good, and benefits the Jews?
I must administrate, and that I’ll do.
It’s true I mingled Galilean blood

With sacrifices that they made–one must
Keep order and demand respect if they
Will not confer it on superiors

Freely, and few submit to Roman rule
Without resentment at our power’s sway.
A governor cannot concern himself

Too much with popularity, as though
He were a suitor of a maid, for where
A suitor woos with his bouquets and gifts,

His poetry and songs, a ruler’s force
Keeps people’s power in the proper check.
Still, I’ve offended them enough before,

My dear, for once I might propitiate
The Jews, and grant petition on a case
Disposed of easily by death of one

For peace and good within Jerusalem.
If I let this man go, the priests would tell
The tale to Herod (eager to see him,

More eager to return the man to me),
And Herod would inform the Emperor,
Like schoolboys tattling in the tutor’s ear.

Within a month or two we’d have to leave
Our palace with the tapestries and slaves,
I’d have to lead recruits against the Gauls,

Out in a wilderness much worse than this,
Where you would have no statues by your bed,
No dinners for the captains and their wives,

No bathing oils, and no embroidered gowns.
I must go out to them, my love, they will
Not come inside the palace, or they’ll be

Unclean, they say, and will not be allowed
To eat the Passover, as though I, I
Would stain another Jewish holiday.

“What charges do you bring against this man?”
(I do believe it’s jealousy that brings
This crowd of sanctimony here at morn.)

They say, “If he were not a criminal,
We never would have handed him to you.”
“Take him yourselves and judge him by your law!”

They say they have no right to execute
A man, which is correct, for only I
Have power in the province to declare

In any case the penalty of death.
I want to know what the accused will say
To clear his name of crime, escape the cross,

And live to marry, raise a family,
Putting the past behind him like a dream
That vanishes when dawn dispels the sleep.

I’ll go inside and question him at once.
Bring Jesus to me in the meeting room.
I ask you, “Are you king of all the Jews?”

You ask if that idea’s mine, or if
Some others talked to me about your case.
Am I a Jew? Your people and your priests

Handed you over to me. What have you done?
You say your Kingdom is not of this world,
And that your servants would have fought to stop

Arrest by Jews, but that your kingdom’s from
Another place. So then you are a king!
You entered in the world to testify

To truth, and everyone who favors truth
Will listen to your speech. But what is truth?
Guard, watch this man. I’ll meet the Jews again.

I find no basis for a charge against
The man, but as you have a custom that
I shall release to you one prisoner

When it is Passover, do you want me
To liberate your Jewish king from chains?
They cry out for Barabbas, rebel Jew,

The last man worthy of his liberty,
An insurrectionist and murderer.
Instead of wine, they want a cup of blood.

I’ll find a way to pacify this mob,
For Jesus is as blameless as a lamb.
Have this man flogged. Look, I am bringing him

Outside to you to let you know I find
No basis for a charge against the man.
See how they’ve mocked him, and he wears a crown

Of thorns, a purple robe−Here is the man!
And yet they still demand I crucify.
You take him, Jews, and crucify, but as

For me I find no basis for a charge.
They say they have a law and by that law
The man must die, because he claimed to be

The Son of God. It’s like a northern wind
Has cut my bones, and piles of cloaks and shawls
Would not shut out the piercing shriek and cold.

Where are you from? Won’t you reply? Don’t you
Know I have power over life or death?
He’s right, I’d have no power over him

If it weren’t given from above, and that
The one who handed him to me has guilt,
A greater sin, for it is wrong to call

A lamb a lion, or a white wall black.
This man has done no wrong, I’ll set him free.
They shout that if I let him go, I am

Not Caesar’s friend, for anyone who claims
To be a king opposes Caesar’s rule.
Leave the praetorium and come out here,

Jesus, stand there beside the guard, and I
Shall sit upon the judge’s seat–they call
This place Stone Pavement, aptly named when stones

Are what they’d throw at you to punish you
For blasphemy, if Jewish law applied.
Chief priests and people of Jerusalem,

Here is your king–have you not had enough
Of blood, and shall I crucify your king?
They say that Caesar is their only king,

As though Tiberius had David’s heart.
What is it, guard, a note from her who shares
My bed? Give it to me and stand aside.

She says, “Do not have anything to do
With him who has no guilt, for in a dream
Today I suffered pain because of him.”

That woman–is she mad? Does she not know
The Roman empire was not built on dreams
And women’s fears, bad omens, auguries,

As though the gods would speak through formless things?
I cannot count on anyone; I trust
Myself, my power and experience.

My life is one long struggle in the dark.
What shall I do? A governor decides–
That is why Caesar placed me here, to seek

The justice of conflicting facts and views.
Another insurrection, even threat
Of one, and Caesar will remove my head,

The same as Herod sliced that prophet’s neck.
The good of Rome and all the people is
What matters most, and if one man should die

Because he failed to mount defense–I gave
The opportunity–that’s hard on him.
The battle’s to the strong, not to the weak

And meek, the lambs that bleat in pasture lands.
I’m sorry that a blameless man must die.
He must be put to death because he called

Himself a Son of God when Caesar’s king;
No king but Caesar, not this Jesus Christ.
The basin’s here, I wash my hands, which do

Not shed this blood, nor do my eyes see it
Performed; I have no guilt, now go, take him,
And have him crucified on Calvary,

You are responsible for him, not me,
I’m not my brother’s keeper, Jews, am I?
They say his blood may rest on them and on

Their children, blood of him they once adored.
Go, write upon the sign above his head
“King of the Jews,” what I have written, I

Have written, it shall stand, a testament.
I’ve washed my hands, and yet I feel I have
Participated in the greatest crime

The world has seen since it began, the death
Of one who did no wrong, one more than man,
Almost as though he were a god himself,

That man who stood and would not answer me.
Forgive me, gods, have mercy on my soul!
A power greater than my own has worked

This evil deed, and still I am to blame.
I’ve crucified a King, my hands have sinned.
To wash with soap a thousand years will not

Remove the stain and stench of blameless blood.
Between the roads to life or death I choose:
Have mercy on me, Jesus, King of Jews!

                            ┼
~Day Williams

Catherine of Siena, poem by Day Williams

CATHERINE OF SIENA

(1347-1380)

Catherine of Siena

A person who believes that Jesus Christ

Is Lord and Savior of the World is called

A saint through faith, the substance of the things

Hoped for, the evidence of things not seen;

And in the Catholic Church some souls are known

As saints and doctors by the grace of God.

The blessed Catherine of Siena, born

A twin upon Annunciation Day,

The last of thirteen children who survived,

Professed her love for God through holiness

When wars and plagues had shaken faith and hope

In city-states of Tuscany where walls

Protected citizens from outside harm.

Her father’s trade was dyeing wool; his wife,

Madonna Lapa, ruled the family.

This daughter destined to direct the Popes,

Young Caterina Benincasa, taught

Herself to say the Angelus at five,

And knelt upon the steps of stairs at home

To say an Ave Maria, step by step.

When she was six years old, she looked across

Valle Piatta to the abbey church

Of San Domenico; above its roof

She saw the Savior of the World, who sat

In bishop’s robes upon a royal throne,

The treble Papal crown upon His head.

Beside the Lord were Peter, Paul and John,

And Jesus raised His hand and blessed the girl,

Who stood enraptured while the love of God

Abounded in her soul, a cup that gushed.

Her brother called to her; she did not move.

He had to take her arm to make her wake

As though from sleep, transformed forevermore.

She swam beneath the water in the sea

Of love, and vowed when seven she would be

The bride of Christ, and of no other man,

A virgin pure in body and in soul.

In times alone with God she learned to build

An inner cell within her soul which she

Would never leave, despite temptation’s pull

And the entreaties from her family,

Who wanted to arrange a groom for her.

Forced to divulge her vow of chastity,

She told her parents that her will was fixed:

“It would be easier to melt a stone

Than tear this resolution from my heart.

I must obey the Lord before all men;

My Bridegroom is so rich that He will give

Me all I need, if you should throw me out.”

The twelve-year-old prevailed; no more would they

Attempt to wed her to a mortal man,

Although she lived beneath her parents’ roof

Another seven years, her room a cell

Beside the landing, ten by sixteen feet.

O Catherine, if I had one-tenth your zeal,

What miracles could God perform through me,

What battles could He win for souls of men!

The revelation of the Trinity

Was hers through meditation, solitude,

And the denial of her self: three times

A day she scourged her body with a chain

Of iron: once for her own sins, once more

For sins of every living soul, and once

For souls in purgatory, giving Christ,

Her Lord and Savior, blood for blood, ‘til blood

Ran down her shoulders in her sacred cell.

Within her parents’ house where she would sleep

For half an hour on every other day

On planks of wood when she was not in prayer.

The holy teen’s devout desire to join

An order of St. Dominic was quenched

At last when she received the robe and veil,

In white to symbolize her purity,

And the black cape, in black as sign of death

Unto this world and of humility.

Eternal blessedness is knowing God,

God as He is; thus she renounced the world,

That which is vanishing, for unity

With Him who suffered on the cross of love.

She gave belongings to the poor, and cared

For sickest of the sick in darkest hours,

Even when stinking wounds made others leave,

And patients shouted blasphemies at her.

Companions said that when she prayed, she rose

Above the floor so high that one could place

A hand between the woman and the floor;

When she received the Body of the Lord,

She would withdraw in ecstasy, as stiff

And as insensible as Lazarus

Four days inside the cave before the Lord

Commanded him to rise and leave the tomb.

When Catherine’s soul was lifted to commune

With Love Incarnate, she could not perceive

A needle in her foot, and passersby

Who doubted her sincerity would kick

The girl who lay insensate in the street.

At twenty-two she ate no solid food,

And for long times the Eucharist alone

Provided nourishment for her who drank,

In mystic flights, from Jesus’ wounded side.

Christ let her see His secrets, and equipped

Her with the gifts of grace to call her forth,

His weapon in the battle for men’s souls.

One story of a multitude is all

I have the space to tell of how she saved

The souls of men through visions and her prayers.

One winter day two wagons took two men,

Condemned to suffer torture and then death,

Around the town as executioners

Used red-hot tongs to tear and burn their flesh.

The robbers, chained to stakes, reviled the Lord

As townsmen shook and shuddered in alarm;

But Catherine of Siena, who had seen

The wagons pass, retired to beg in prayer

For Christ to save the wretches’ souls, as He

Had saved the robber crucified by Him.

The wagons drove up to a city gate,

The Porta della Giustitia,

And there beneath the arch stood Christ, who wore

A crown of thorns and bled from head to toe.

Caught up in Spirit, Catherine saw the Lord;

The robbers saw Him too, and when He saw

Their eyes and hearts, defiance in them broke.

These highwaymen called for a priest, confessed

Their sins, sang hymns, and met their deaths content.

The very moment that they died redeemed,

The praying virgin woke from ecstasy,

For love of God and mankind for His sake

Was all the mystic knew worth living for.

The exile of the Popes to Avignon

(Franciscans called it Babylonia,

And hung their harps on poplars as they wept)

Disrupted Rome, corrupted faith, and left

Believers rudderless and insecure.

The Roman churches lay in ruins, priests

Had morals of degenerates, and law

Was lost as factions fought and clutched for power.

God sent as punishment the plague, Black Death,

Which killed one-half of Europe’s populace.

In thirteen-fifty St. Birgitta, a seer

From Sweden, heard the call to cleanse the Church.

She went to Rome and urged the Pope to leave

His capital in Avignon, lest he

Should suffer wrath from God– but he refused.

As John the Baptist heralded the work

And ministry of Christ, Birgitta ran

Before the mystic saint who wrought success,

The Pope’s return to Rome from Avignon,

For Catherine told Pope Gregory that he

Had made a vow when Cardinal to move

To Rome if ever he became the Pope,

A vow which he had never told a soul.

At thirty-three, the age her Bridegroom died,

Suffering, paralyzed below the waist,

As she lay on her bed of wooden boards,

The purest dove accused herself of sins,

And cried aloud, “My honor!  Never!  Praise

And honor to Christ crucified alone!”

In April thirteen-eighty Catherine gave

Her spirit to the Father’s hands.

In spring a million buds appear on trees;

In winter snowflakes fall from clouds, each one

Unique in pattern, each a gift to earth,

And as each bud and snowflake offers gifts

That come from it alone, so every child

Who’s born again of God, among the millions, bears

And offers special gifts, the gifts of grace

And mercy to the Lord and humankind.

This daughter of a wealthy family

Used special gifts to lead and move the Popes

And men of lower rank to follow God.

Greater than special gifts that Catherine had

Through her ascetic life and ministry

Was intimacy she possessed with Christ;

She loved the Lord with heart and soul and strength,

And fixed her eyes on Jesus’ wounds; she knew

None are redeemed without the blood of Christ.

She served her Bridegroom, clove right by His side,

Surrendered self with zeal, and gave up pride

As she renounced the world to be His bride.

Beatles: Revolution

Beatles, “Revolution”

You say you want a revolution
Well, you know
We all want to change the world
You tell me that it’s evolution
Well, you know
We all want to change the world

But when you talk about destruction
Don’t you know that you can count me out

Don’t you know it’s gonna be alright
Alright, alrightYou say you got a real solution
Well, you know
We’d all love to see the plan
You ask me for a contribution
Well, you know
We’re all doing what we can


But if you want money for people with minds that hate
All I can tell you is brother you have to wait

Don’t you know it’s gonna be alright
Alright, alright, al…You say you’ll change the constitution
Well, you know
We all want to change your head
You tell me it’s the institution
Well, you know
You’d better free your mind instead

But if you go carrying pictures of Chairman Mao
You ain’t going to make it with anyone anyhow

Don’t you know it’s gonna be alright
Alright, alright

Alright, alright
Alright, alright
Alright, alright

Twitter

  1. Mayor Buttigieg says he’s a gay Christian. As a Christian I believe the Bible which defines homosexuality as sin, something to be repentant of, not something to be flaunted, praised or politicized. The Bible says marriage is between a man & a woman—not two men, not two women.
  2. ~Franklin Graham