Mary Magdalene Mistakes the Gardener

Genesis 3John 20

Listen, I’m no mad woman. I’ve been among you,
Reclined at your tables, you’ve broken my bread
you dolts. It’s true:
I entered the garden’s east gate and
ducked the bedolach boughs twisting in sinuous bark-lynch;
those timbers ice-broken over winter.
The footpath tangled in briars,
and there I caught my foot and
fell and tore my palms in the thorns that
received me.
I labored to lift me from the weeds
impish and clawing, gnawing
like teeth when the
gardener lifted me to these broken trees.
Then I regained my feet and clutched my bleeding hands
in the open limb wounds, blackening
with sap
invigorated by Spring.
The scent and tack
of bdellium gum flexing,
sealing my abrasions
sediment settling in finger-crease.
All I touched bears my dirtprint still.
See, there’s handprints on my knees
when I leaned to rest. There must
be handprints on his robes when
I groped at him to stay.
See, even now by the lamps of our dinner,
here in the coated creases of my hands
is the earth from which we draw this bread.
Here are the thorns and thistles.
Red and infected are the prints that bear them.
In the sweat of my face you can see
how I hid the tears of my weeping
and the streak where he wiped them away. 

At this hour we all might be anyone:
It is only our victim who is without a wish
Who knows already (that is what
We can never forgive. If he knows the answers,
Then why are we here, why is there even dust?)
Knows already that, in fact, our prayers are heard,
That not one of us will slip up,
That the machinery of our world will function
Without a hitch, that today, for once,
There will be no squabbling on Mount Olympus,
No Chthonian mutters of unrest,
But no other miracle, knows that by sundown
We shall have had a good Friday.

W.H. Auden. Horae Canonicae: Terce.

And I follow it up with a line from later in the poem: What shall we do till nightfall?

Station #12 – Christ’s Body is Removed from the Cross

Meal the footbones
hammer-crack the
cuneiforms wedge
the tarsals peel
the formless foot
flesh back over
the nailheads
he dont walk
he dead.
Tug the legs til his
hands rip he fall
weighs the same as
each dead man

This was done for a Lenten art project at our church where members contributed poetry and visuals to depict the stations of the cross. 

Drawing: Ink and wash on paper (Will Weiland). Poem: Linocut print.

I’m posting another of @RyanCulwell’s songs, for which I sort of apologize to my 42 followers on Tumblr. Sort of, but not really. I mean, chances are you are probably a mutual friend of mine and Ryan’s anyway, so you’ll be listening to it regardless. However, there’s a small chance that we’ve never met, and you live in some place exotic like Switzerland or NYC or San Francisco, and your musical tastebuds (eardrums?) are inundated with new sounds and new songs constantly by new artists who might be worth investing a listen because chances are those artists will pay cool dividends in 5 years when you can say that you were listening to them way back.

So here’s another video – one of those ubiquitous black-and-white-shot-on-the-street-videos featuring a-girl-with-a-beautiful-voice – of which you can find billions all over the Internet. I realize nobody finds music this way any more because there’s just too much of it. People still find music the old fashioned way: because their friends like it and put it on the playlist while hanging out or on road-trips or because you slow-danced to it or whatever.

Anyway, if you and I were sitting in your living room and I brought over the record or my mobile device, then I would compare Ryan’s songs to other songs that both of us had enjoyed while we were younger. I might bring up people like Ryan Adams, and you’d say, “But I don’t like Ryan Adams anymore. I mean I still occasionally listen to him, but only for sentimental reasons; only to remind myself of myself 10 years ago.” And I would say that I agree and then we’d sit there for a bit. And then I’d say, “but one of the reasons I don’t like Ryan Adams anymore is because he hasn’t aged well. He’s still talented – great voice, etc – but his scope has narrowed or just didn’t grow up. I just can’t listen to a break-up song at this point in my life because it doesn’t make any sense. Which is probably why it’s so hard to find any new musical artists once you hit your 30s. Pop music just doesn’t grow up. There’s nothing rock n roll about domesticity.”

On that you and I would surely agree, otherwise you haven’t grown up either.

I’d ponder a little longer and vaguely recall some Robert Penn Warren I’d read in my 20s that said something like “Living is a temporal art like music. It is dynamic and consecutive in its nature. Nostalgia is a vicious denial of this fact. The chord must be resolved.” Or maybe one of Eliot’s appreciations, like the one of Tennyson that bemoaned the master’s inability to sail through the dark night but instead shipwrecked in middle age. 

Finally, I’d resolve and say, “I think Ryan Culwell may be an artist I can go through my 30s listening to honestly." 

I’ll let you know in 8 years.

Also, here’s an interview with other people who aren’t Ryan’s friends who think that he’s worth listening to:

My friend Joshua makes desks (among other things). His family also runs The Shop, a membership-based woodworking shop that teaches you how to make your own furniture. Check it here: