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2011-04-01 issue:

Tenebrae

Poetry

by Joanne Lehman

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Our music bleeds close harmonies
stretching into each ancient symbol—
the precious lamb of God, drink and bread,
the substance of our sacred rite.
My throat is loose, pure vowels,
crisp consonants grow bold in these old hymns
gone wild with low chromatic scales,
dissonance held and then resolved.
Tenors match sopranos, depart and blend again.
We are a community of images and sounds—
allusions to a grace we think we know. 
Each candle is slowly snuffed;
we hear again the dark and mystic words.

I rise to sing and then recall the
movement of my neighbor's sheep,
the bleating cries of mothers
with their young. How last week I watched
the wobbly gait of small black twins as
they stumbled forward into brownish pastures.
Before our last rehearsal
the new lambs are taken to the auction barn—
for the Easter lamb sale—
(except for the lame one, rolled on by his mother
after his unattended birth in a winter stall).
My neighbor tells it simply, as if her words confer
a remnant of dignity. She, who might hold
mercy like the shreds of hay she offered them,
or pardon in her buckets of grain.
They're Easter lambs, these innocents of hers.
We know the story well, about their blood,
Take it as a sign, taste the bitter herb,
egg and salt, unleavened bread.

Joanne Lehman is a member of Kidron (Ohio) Mennonite Church.

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