HAIL, GOOD CENTURION

Many mention their muse speaking to them as they are falling to sleep, requiring they either get up to write a note or risk forgetting those words when they wake in the morning. I didn’t write this down, but I remembered. Now, is it a poem? I’ve never written a poem composed entirely of dialog before, but last night I listened to this conversation and I today I had to write it.

Prompt #77 for We Write Poems, http://wewritepoems.wordpress.com/, was “Shame.” Somehow, this poem seemed to fit that criteria.

HAIL, GOOD CENTURION
by Mike Patrick

Hail, good centurion, Marcus.
Why do you scrub your hand so?

My hand is marked with the blood
of he we crucified, Longinus.
It will not wash off.

I see nothing, my friend,
but I understand.
It is the same for my lance.
The tip cut deep into
the strange Jew’s side,
but his life was gone before the thrust.
Now it is stained, will not come clean,
and though its balance pleases my hand
the stain offends my eyes.

Longinus, we share the watch
upon that hill tonight.
I would ask you walk away
and leave me there alone.
His followers seek
the instrument of his death,
and I would see them have it.

What use have they
for a bloodstained cross?
Although this . . . this . . .
king of the Jews
carried it up, it is too heavy
to carry down in the dark.

I will help them carry it down.
This stain, I must be rid of it,
and what if . . .
what if we killed the son of God.

You go too far, Marcus.
But stand your watch as you will.
I will look the other way.

The “Holy Lance,” the one used to pierce the side of Jesus as he hung on the cross, is called the Lancea Longini (lance of Longinus) in Latin. Longinus is the only name I could find anywhere for the centurion who used the lance.

Marcus is the name I heard as I tried to sleep.

No one is sure what happened to the “True Cross,” the one Jesus died on. The answer is not in the Bible. Supposedly, it was found in Jerusalem, in 326 AD, by the mother of Constantine the Great, Empress Helena. Soon afterward, fragments began appearing in churches and around the necks of individuals. Some say there are enough fragments to make up many crosses.

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24 Responses to HAIL, GOOD CENTURION

  1. viv blake says:

    This feels like a very human side of the story. Nobody mentions the guilt of those who put Him to death, but the reactions were inevitable. The dialogue works well.

  2. Janet says:

    This should be used in drama. I could see it play out as I read it and I was literally covered in goose-bumps(it happens to me when I read something that really hits ‘that spot’:) WOW! Divine inspiration!

  3. Mary says:

    Dialogue does work well. You wondered if it is poetry. I’d say it is. If you consider it poetry, it IS poetry indeed.

    • Mike Patrick says:

      Thanks, Mary. I know that the poet makes the rules, but putting something is verse still doesn’t make it poetry to anyone but the poet. I have just never seen a poem entirely of dialog before, and I am not striving to be an innovator. Not yet.

  4. Janet says:

    One more thing…since I read this I keep thinking of the book The Robe. I need to read it again, one of my top favorite books I have ever read!

  5. earlybird says:

    Well done for writing this down. It works well. I agree with Mary; if you say it’s poetry, it is.

  6. Mike, I enjoyed reading this very human side of the story and the point of view, and the “what if?” Well written 🙂

  7. This is good commentary, Mike. The centurion who supposedly said, “Truly, this is the son of God,” would indeed have helped them carry the cross. Human, true to life.
    The bloodstain on his hands also reminded me of MacBeth’s wife and her traumatic sense that the “stain” was still on her hands: “Out, damned spot!” Very well done. Sorry I didn’t reply to your comments at my site earlier, but I was on a deadline for a last-minute editing gig. Best, Amy
    http://sharplittlepencil.wordpress.com/2011/09/14/free-edits-from-amy-free/

  8. geri-Mom says:

    I love this. I love that it’s a conversation.
    I can’t believe this came to you while you tried to sleep. Nothing this intiricates has ever come to me….but sometimes, thoughts come to me as i drift off..and then they disappear. By morning. they’re just whispers of foggy thoughts…

  9. Mr. Walker says:

    Mike, it’s a fine poem. The dialogue format works really well, back and forth from stanza to stanza. It was very easy to imagine those two men. Truly inspired. I love the detail from Longinus of “though its balance pleases my hand”, particularly in contrast with the “stain”. It recalls Macbeth.

    Richard

    • Mike Patrick says:

      Thank you, Richard. After writing this, a book I’m reading spoke of adding reality to a poem by making uncommon observations. The lance’s balance would be one of those observations, but it wasn’t plotted.

      I mentioned to Margo some time ago that although I’ve read many of Shakespeare’s plays, I hadn’t read Macbeth. She said it is one of her favorites, and she used it in teaching for years. I’m going to have to read it. The good thing is, all his works are available on the internet.

  10. pmwanken says:

    I don’t think it was just a muse talking to you…and it’s not just a poem, it’s a Masterpiece (double entendre, intended). Well done!!

  11. Old Egg says:

    Great writing. One of the problems in any religion is the boundaries that are set for believers and being able to imagine what else went on is a breath of fresh air.

  12. akweelife says:

    I like your poem. I have always been intimidated by writing poetry. I’m no good at counting lines, or verses, and always getting thing to rhyme. But I do enjoy reading it. And I liked this one. I liked the empathy you had for your characters, it made them real people that are mostly forgotten. You reminded me of the night I tossed and turned all night hearing Paul arguing before the Sanhedrin. I never admitted it even as a dream to anyone before. I am intrigued by how this poem came to you. Well, and for my own sake, also just a bit reassured too. Thank you for sharing this one.

  13. Altonian says:

    Can I firstly say how pleased I am to see you on The Tale Tellers. Kwee Lewis and I started this site for those ‘free writers’ who do not require someone else’s prompt to get them started. It would be great to see you among our Followers.
    Your poem; and prose poem it most certainly is, is a wonderful example of how inspiration can seem to come from nowhere. I get mine from dreams – sometimes. Your language has a truth and authenticity which could be a modern translation from the latin. The feel of it is perfect.
    Extraordinarily well done.

    • Mike Patrick says:

      I appreciate the vote of confidence on Centurion, Altonian. I have such mixed feeling about it. While it came from nowhere and demanded to be written, I’m not sure where it belongs. The truth be known, religion has only been a peripheral part of my life. There are many poets, much more deserving, who should have been charged with this message.

      The good news is, while I usually do write from prompts, I already have another unprompted poem ready for next week. See you then.

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