Two interrelated poems by Dr. Cathy Ross.
Seated at table, the aroma of onions and spices
The sound of babies chortling, street vendors shouting,
Tangerine sun, low in the sky
My body sore and stiff; not used to resurrection.
Martha is in the kitchen,
I recline next to Jesus and hear
Serious talk. The forthcoming Passover,
The fear of the Roman soldiers is a stench in the room.
Where is Mary?
Normally she is near Jesus.
She comes in, carefully cradling
An exquisitely decorated amphora.
She approaches Jesus at table
Lets down her hair, sensuously.
Shatters the beautiful amphora.
Pours perfume on his feet.
Her precious perfume. Her treasure.
She lowers herself to the floor
Caresses’ Jesus’ feet with her hair.
The scent of the perfume envelops us,
We witness her devotion,
The beauty of her love,
The depth of her worship,
The power of her sacrifice.
Perfume on her hair and on His feet.
The Dinner Party
An elaborate dinner party, this one.
Martha has been preparing for days,
Several deliveries from Waitrose
Despite the outside caterers.
Not sure how much more I can eat.
The dessert wines are rich and sweet,
My digestion is not the same
Since my three days in the tomb.
Jesus looks bored, tired, irritated
Conversations about Brexit, royal weddings
Pension deficits, interest rates and the NHS.
The worried well.
Mary absents herself.
The conversation continues.
Desultory. A kind of lethargy
Jesus makes as if to leave
But is stopped by Mary
Who rushes in and falls at His
She unlaces his shoes.
Removes his socks.
Shocked silence. Awkward.
Shared and knowing looks.
Jesus seems remarkably at ease.
Mary has her essential oils.
Slowly she unstops the many bottles
And pours them, precisely, slowly, over Jesus’ feet.
The disapproval is palpable.
The embarrassment tangible.
The tension unbearable.
The scent overwhelming.
The carpet is a mess.
Tenderly she massages his feet.
She even stoops to kiss them.
The dinner party is ruined.
The guests take their leave
Horrified at this naked devotion
At this flagrant waste.
Mary remains curled at Jesus’ feet.
Her extravagance exposed,
Her love revealed,
Her fealty pledged,
Her sacrifice offered.
Ripon College, Cuddesdon
30 November, 2017.