March 2010 - Vol. 38

Pain's Conundrum

by Sean O'Neill


You died for all menís sins, so why do I die too?
Or is it not for sins I die? Is it that you
Contrive some more ignoble travesty or trick?
Does bating bears or training dogs to fight seem sick?
Do angels wager on my grimaces and cheer
When I begin to flag or witless fill with fear?

What marvels of logic you do make. But say this:
Was it I whose weakness bartered the traitorís kiss?
And did I, feckless, hide away when you were scourged
Or stand and jeer you at your death when I was urged?
Is one death not enough that you will ask for mine?

Enough? Your death exceeded by this doleful sign:
Two bloody blocks of wood, the standing lonely cross.
You turned despair and longing into hope; you spanned
The chasms in our virtue with a bridge and unmanned
These sins, incinerating with them all my guilt,
Demolishing the awful totems I had built?

So whence the great conundrum of my living pain
If ransoms in your blood remove my sinful stain?
Perhaps the blessing in the often threshing hand
Is not the punishment I try to understand.
Instead the truly wildest thought I can conceive
Is that you let me feel your mortal pain and leave
My senses to the miseries you did endure,
When in the garden even God was so unsure.

So in the traitorís kiss I do betray my sin
And castigate my scourging and I will begin
To see that all the loud protesting that I do
Is drowning in the mercies that have come from you.
When you allow participation in your grief
The lesson will endure, while yet the pain is brief.


Sean O'Neill is originally from Glasgow, Scotland, and currently lives in St. Paul, Minnesota, USA. His poems range from the sacred to the mundane and sometimes, inadvertently, both at the same time. 
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