Story, Value, and Becoming More Real
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December 1, 2021

Sam Keyes


Festive windows spill white light,

The streets thrill with frost,

But in the house, the air is sweet

With candle scent, with carols

Piping pure and bright, round

Children bundled snug in arms,

Daydreaming of feasting, gifts,

Our reassuring liturgies.


It was not white and peaceful when

Across proud Egypt’s slums, the

Plagues’ crescendo swelled with dread

As exiles gathered, stern and stunned,

With sandals tied,

With cloaks tucked in,

Squatting down on unswept floors

To eat in haggard haste.


Bitter herbs of promise stung each tongue

As in their bated midst there lay

The remnants of a spotless lamb,

Ribcage jutting up amid

The offal and the twisted limbs,

Perfect once, not perfect any more,

Crimson clotting cold upon the door.


The doors were bolted shut,

The burnished sun fell red upon the Nile,

Echoed anguish piercing deathly calm,

As out among the darkening streets

Darkness fell upon each firstborn bed,

And exiles kept in reverence and dread

A holy vigil.


They huddled in the great storm’s eye

Outcasts casting hope upon a sign.


On the eve of Exodus, they knew

Contentment is no cheap and easy thing,

No bauble, fat and glittering

No easy song, no comfortable bed,

That on the steep and narrow path

We pilgrims are

The stones of hard Jerusalem,

Lazarus, laid silent in the tomb,

The gnarled roots in the garden’s gloom;

Wept over and bloodied,

With holy tears,

With sacred blood.


On the eve of Exodus, they knew

That comfort often comes in robes of red,

Hiding for a time

Beneath a darkened glass

The bliss to come,

Not wiping every tear,

As yet,

But weeping with

Beside the weeping bed,

Not healing every wound,

As yet,

But giving us Himself:

Our peace,

Our refuge,

And our daily bread.

The featured image titled “Oxford City Street View at Night” is courtesy of Lancia E. Smith and used with her permission for Cultivating. 


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  1. Gail Hart says:

    Beautiful and thank you for writing about this time of tears and waiting where yet the feasting and liturgy bring comfort even in time of pandemic or plague. The struggle and comfort leading toward passover and Easter joy.

  2. Jonathan Taylor says:

    Beautiful work! It (almost) makes me want to start trying to write poetry again.

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