Holy Week–Palm Sunday

Triumphal Entry

Palm-fronds and garments flung between the hooves,
clamour of welcome for a conqueror,
inauguration of an age chain-free . . .

Despite all earlier hints
the outcome seemed to let the shouters down.
This was to be an empire of submission:
instead of protest, service ­
instead of insurrection, peace.

At the other end of the week, God said,
‘Let there be blood.’ And there was blood.
His palms that cured the blind and mad
got hammered to the crossbar.
The makeshift tree became stained this time
with the red knowledge of obedience.

No friends stood by their king who hung there scorned ­
a felon, a failure, a mere laughing-stock
who pleaded to the dark unanswering sky.

We’re meant to clasp that starless paradox.
That apparent loss of God contains our hope ­
all that we dread unshirked and undergone
by one who dared the worst the world can do.

An empty tomb at daybreak shone with proof.
One wounded hand unlocked the gate of death
to show the proper end of frailty and pain
is that quiet passing into paradise ­
no dust, no yelling, no mistaken dream;
admission to a place where we belong.

–Harry Guest, 1998


  1. Old-fashioned snob that I am, I’m rather fond of rhyme and meter and form, and I’m ambivalent about lots of contemporary poetry, including this poem. I might rather have posted Henry Vaughan’s or Christina Rosetti’s Palm Sunday poems, and maybe I will. But I like the ideas this poem is getting at, despite a few clunky lines. “The red knowledge of obedience” and “starless paradox” almost make up for “the worst the world can do”, etc.

    If you have favorite Easter or Holy Week poems, please post or link to them here.

  2. I canNOT believe it’s this time of year again already! This is such a service, Kristine, to share material to prepare us for Easter. Thank you.

  3. Literary critique aside, I wept like a baby in The Kingdom and the Crown when Jesus was making his way on the back of the donkey towards the city.

    Thanks for the poem K.

  4. Thank you.

  5. This is beautiful. Thanks.

  6. Hosannah, loud hosannah.

  7. An Easter poem we like very much is Supernatural Love by Gjertrud Schnackenberg. I first saw it in The Atlantic Monthly in December 1982. This is the text; it looks like something is forcing a separation between the 2nd and 3rd lines of each triplet, so you can also find the properly formatted text here.
    (Can anyone help get this post properly formatted?)

    Supernatural Love

    My father at the dictionary stand
    Touches the page to fully understand
    The lamplit answer, tilting in his hand

    His slowly scanning magnifying lens,
    A blurry, glistening circle he suspends
    Above the word ‘Carnation’. Then he bends

    So near his eyes are magnified and blurred,
    One finger on the miniature word,
    As if he touched a single key and heard

    A distant, plucked, infinitesimal string,
    “The obligation due to every thing
    That’ s smaller than the universe.” I bring

    My sewing needle close enough that I
    Can watch my father through the needle’s eye,
    As through a lens ground for a butterfly

    Who peers down flower-hallways toward a room
    Shadowed and fathomed as this study’s gloom
    Where, as a scholar bends above a tomb

    To read what’s buried there, he bends to pore
    Over the Latin blossom. I am four,
    I spill my pins and needles on the floor

    Trying to stitch “Beloved” X by X.
    My dangerous, bright needle’s point connects
    Myself illiterate to this perfect text

    I cannot read. My father puzzles why
    It is my habit to identify
    Carnations as “Christ’s flowers,” knowing I

    Can give no explanation but “Because.”
    Word-roots blossom in speechless messages
    The way the thread behind my sampler does

    Where following each X, I awkward move
    My needle through the word whose root is love.
    He reads, “A pink variety of Clove,

    Carnatio, the Latin, meaning flesh.”
    As if the bud’s essential oils brush
    Christ’s fragrance through the room, the iron-fresh

    Odor carnations have floats up to me,
    A drifted, secret, bitter ecstasy,
    The stems squeak in my scissors, Child, it’s me,

    He turns the page to “Clove” and reads aloud:
    “The clove, a spice, dried from a flower-bud.”
    Then twice, as if he hasn’t understood,

    He reads, “From French, for clou, meaning a nail.”
    He gazes, motionless,”Meaning a nail.”
    The incarnation blossoms, flesh and nail,

    I twist my threads like stems into a knot
    And smooth “Beloved”, but my needle caught
    Within the threads, Thy blood so dearly bought,

    The needle strikes my finger to the bone.
    I lift my hand, it is myself I’ve sewn,
    The flesh laid bare, the threads of blood my own,

    I lift my hand in startled agony
    And call upon his name, “Daddy Daddy” –
    My father’s hand touches the injury

    As lightly as he touched the page before,
    Where incarnation bloomed from roots that bore
    The flowers I called Christ’s when I was four.

    – Gjertrud Schnackenberg