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Mary Rudbeck Stanko

(Second Prize Winner 2006 Utmost Christian Poetry Contest – $750)

On a May day some years ago while I was recuperating from a serious neurosurgery (I have Syringomyelia and a Chiari Malformation) I managed to drag myself out of a fog of pain and took a walk around the block. On a corner lot near the entrance to a local park I saw a tree unlike any other I had ever seen, with splinters of pink erupting from ancient seventy or eighty year old branches, an effusion of beauty cast against the blue sky. I stood with my spineful of pain and thought of my cross, that cross, The Cross. In my slow stagger home, the words to the poem came to me. So strangely, last year the lot was sold to a developer and in my last walk around the block, which was two or three days ago, I witnessed wood being nailed into a strange structure which will no doubt be student housing. What came into my mind when I saw it was Blake's musing, " For some a tree is a green thing that stands in the way; for me it is the Heavenly Host singing Holy, Holy Holy!" When I found out "Judas Tree" had been so honoured, I felt I had given back what was given to me that day, the grace to keep walking.

Judas Tree

Contorted branches sting with pink,
through the pleading night;
all you are
is blood.
A trillion lives squeeze
the fronds
of your sweet betrayal; mouths
and all their silent supplications
in the ruddy sanctum
where your florets curl
in remorseful profusion.
Our hearts can hardly bear to see you;
they leave our chests
to hang like things speared
and holding
innumerable sorrows,
reprehensible travesties
that mark our place
in your care, until
there, in throats of soft dishevelled
hue, we stay
to wait for our salvation.

Copyright ©2006 by Mary Rudbeck Stanko