She knew that he was teaching in
The Temple court all week. There'd been
Reports to Pilate that the crowds
Were seething with unrest, and clouds
Of rage were gathering among
The Pharisees and scribes. His tongue
Was like a trumpet of a long
Forgotten truth, an ancient song
Of mercy well concealed within
The ordered sounds that Scribes had been
Arranging from the rubble of
God's holy masterpiece, the love
Song of the centuries. She heard
The precious fragments of his word,
And savored every piece, and prayed
That Pilate would be moved, and made
Awake from all his slumbers of
Conceit; from putting peace above
The truth, and fearing ev'ry face
That seemed displeased, as if his place
As Procurator of the state
Hung by a thread, and all the weight
Of truth a threat. With all her heart
She prayed that somehow even part
Of Jesus' words would penetrate
Her husband's soul, and there create
A noble ruler, strong and free,
A man of truth and bravery.
O how she wanted to admire
The man that once held her desire.
The sixth day of the week her sleep
Was fitful. Pilate rose to keep,
She thought, some early rendezvous
With Jewish men who chose to do
Their Roman business in the dark.
If Pilate ever leaves a mark,
She mused, it will, if I am right,
Be how he governed in the night.
At last she slept. And in her sleep
She saw, as in a dream, a sheep,
With eyes as deep as ocean caves,
And caught in thorns among the graves.
It made no effort to escape,
And all the others watched agape,
While cruel winds turned thorns to spikes
With force, the way a soldier strikes,
And all its spotless wool was made
Like scarlet with its wounds all laid
In order, as if by design,
And far beyond the meadow line
There stood a shepherd named I AM,
Whose back was turned against the lamb.
She woke with sudden fear that it
Was Jesus in the dream. She split
The curtains in her room, and there,
With torches all around, a pair
Of soldiers stood on either side
Of Jesus. Pilate sat, legs wide,
Like Roman Caesars, splayed before
Some victim who might now implore
For mercy and bestow on small
And anxious governors the all-
Important look of regal pow'r
As stable as a summer flow'r.
She knew this look on Pilate's face
And that the time was short. Her pace
Was quick. She took a charcoal shard
And scribbled on a board. "Look hard,
At what you are about to do,
My husband and my head. Are you
About to judge a man for fear
Of his accusers? Pray, give ear,
O Pilate, I have suffered much
This night because of him. O touch
Not any hair upon his head,
For none in all your realm has spread
More good than he. I have it in
A dream that he will bear the sin
Of wicked men, and is the Lamb
Of God. But how will God not damn
The man that puts his Son to death?"
She rang the servant, took a breath,
And said, "Take this at once and give
It to the governor. I live
And by my life do swear no harm
Will come to you. Let no alarm
Upon his face deter you from
This charge. Now go, and bring me some
Reply from Pilate's lips." She took
The servant's arm, and whispered, "Look
Into his eye when he has read the board,
And say, 'The Mistress calls him Lord.'"
She knelt and prayed, "O God, if it
Is possible that Pilate quit
His cowardice, and risk his throne
To speak the truth and stand alone
Against the enemies of Christ,
And not one good be sacrificed,
Then grant him courage, Lord, to stand.
If not, then, do what you have planned."
In half an hour he returned,
"My Mistress, Pilate said, 'I learned
Some twenty years ago how much
To listen to my wife, and such
Fond counsel is the reason I
Am deaf to her desires. Tell my
Good wife that dreams are fickle things,
And if her mind again sprouts wings
And flies away from reason, then
Perhaps she should perch like a wren
Among the branches of a tree
And chirp her little prophecy
Into the wind where it belongs.'"
With tears she smiled and said, "The wrongs
You carry are well said, good friend.
I thank you. You may go. And tend
Your marriage well. You see where it
he was gone, she split
Her royal gown in two and fell
In sobs upon her bed, "So well
Do you reward me! Twenty years
Of marriage, Pontius Pilate. Tears,
My daily tears, you feed me, lest
I thirst for something sweet, some blest
Embrace. It is a strange device
For keeping me. And such a price
We pay! I thought perhaps the Lord
Had meant that we would be restored
Tonight. I thought that was his oath.
But now, it seems, I lose you both."
Then suddenly there was a great
Commotion in the hall. And hate
Spilled into the Praetorium.
Six hundred soldiers pressed to come
Into the great hall just outside
The room where Claudia had tried
To save the Christ. She tied her gown,
Ran through the door and started down
The stairs, but stopped as Pilate grabbed
Her by the arm. "Let go," she jabbed
Him in the side. "What's going on
Down there? Let go!" she screamed. "It's gone
Beyond what you would want to see.
It's not for women. Come with me."
She jerked free from his hold and ran
Down to the floor, and saw the man
She knew was Jesus, but would not
Have recognized. The air was hot
With sweat and breath, and soldiers roared
With laughter every time the Lord
Was struck. His eyes were swollen shut,
He couldn't see from where the butt
Of one spear or the next would come
To crush his rib or smash his thumb
Or knock his breath away. His hair
Was matted scarlet, woven there
Among the thorns half sunk inside
His head from being struck. She spied
At last his back, and almost fell
Faint to the floor. What means in hell
Had they devised to grind his flesh
Like that? And now, as if to thresh
His skin were not enough, they made
Sport of his holy soul, and flayed
His tender heart with blasphemies.
"We hear you are a prophet. Please,
Make known from whom this message comes
And what's the point and if it plumbs
The depths of God." A soldier stood
Behind, and sank the sharpened wood
Tip of his javelin the length
Of one long finger in the strength
Remaining in the Savior's thigh.
He gasped and fell. The woman's cry
Made every soldier turn. She rushed
Between the ranks, and as they hushed,
She fell beside the body of
The Lord and wept the tears of love
That she had held so long, and laid
His head upon her lap, and made
A bow as if to kiss. But no,
She stopped, and listened to the low
And almost breathless words. And then
She laid his head down once again
Upon the marble floor, stood, turned,
And climbed the steps where Pilate burned
With rage. "Well, what sweet nothings did
Your Jesus say, my dear? I bid
You, tell me what he whispered there."
His blood-stained wife paused on the stair
And looked in Pilate's shallow eyes,
And said to him, "When Jesus dies
Today, the world we know will be
No more. Now wait and you will see.
And I will tell you what he said
When he's long risen from the dead."
The light of candle two is dim
Like love and hope in many grim
And dying marriages. What light
Lay on the floor that awful night
In the Praetorium? Was it
The final spark of life once lit
By love, now gone? Or was it more?
Let ev'ry husband ask therefore,
And ev'ry wife, which is the true
And faithful view: Is candle two
The fading light of day withdrawn,
Or is this flame the light of dawn?