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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Annual Updike Poem

The following poems needs little or no
introduction. It appeared in Telephone Poles
and Other Poems (Knopf, 1963).

I first saw it in the Christian Century in
the late Sixties. It appears the ever-prescient
Updike was thirty years, more or less, ahead of the
Human Genome & “Faith & Science Dialogues”
--though I do recall meetings of the “Faith/Man/Nature”
Group back then at Uni-Lu in Cambridge!
As best I can recall, Updike first read this in
public at an arts festival in the Lutheran Church
in Marblehead, MA. Resurrexit est !

+ + +
+ D.B. 4.2.10



Make no mistake: if He rose at all
it was as His body;
if the cell’s dissolution did not reverse,
the molecules reknit,
the amino acids rekindle,
the Church will fall.

It was not as the flowers,
each soft spring recurrent;
it was not as His Spirit in the mouths
and fuddled eyes of the eleven apostles;
it was as His flesh: ours.

The same hinged thumbs and toes,
the same valved heart
that--pierced--died; withered paused, and then regathered
out of enduring Might
new strength to enclose.

Let us not mock God with metaphor,
analogy, sidestepping, transcendence,
making of the event a parable,
a sign painted in the faded credulity of earlier ages:
let us walk through the door.

The stone is rolled back, not papier-maché,
not a stone in a story,
but the vast rock of materiality
that in the slow grinding of
time will eclipse for each of us
the wide light of day.

And if we will have an angel at the tomb,
make it a real angel,
weighty with Max Planck’s quanta, vivid with hair,
opaque in the dawn light, robed in real linen,
spun on a definite loom.

Let us not seek to make it less monstrous,
for our own convenience, our own sense of beauty,
lest, awakened in one unthinkable hour,
we are embarrassed by the miracle,
and crushed by remonstrance.

--John Updike
copyright 1963, from COLLECTED POEMS
(NY: Knopf, 1994), pp. 20f.


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