The Prodigal and his mother

1. On the Road
And the stone on the roadside said then,
‘How heavy your steps have grown.’
And the stone said, ‘Will you return now
To your forgotten home?’
And the bush on the roadside said then,
‘Your tallness is bent low.
How,’ said the bush, ‘will you get there,
Stumbling as you go?’

And the sign-post by the roadside
Cried ‘Stranger!’ in its scorn;
And the sign-post by the roadside
Stabbed him like a thorn.

‘Your lips are dry,’ cried the fountain;
And called from the roadside near.
And he knelt and drank of the water,
And a tear touched a tear.

2. In the House
‘I have forgotten,’ the sister said.
The brother said, ‘I do not recall.’
‘I’ll never forgive,’ the father said.
The bride said, ‘I’ve forgiven all.’
Silent the mother peeped through the blinds:
Long is the road and far it winds.

‘The wind is rising,’ the sister said.
The brother said, ‘O hear the rain.’
‘Locked is the door,’ the young bride said.
‘None,’ said the father, ‘shall lock it again.’
Silent the mother walked to and fro:
God in heaven, how the winds blow.

‘There are five of us,’ the sister said.
The brother said, ‘Let us sit and dine.’
‘Come,’ said the bride, ‘the table is laid.’
The father said, ‘I shall pour the wine.’
Silent the mother bowed her head,
In five parts broke the Sabbath bread.

The sister nibbled her crumbs like a mouse,
The brother sopped his bread, the bride
Toasted the mistress of the house,
The father ate his bread and sighed.
Then up rose the mother and drew back the chain,
And opened the door to the wind and the rain.

3. Repentance
‘I am not guiltless, my hands not blameless,
But my heart repents in no wise.’
And he knelt down at the threshold,
Lay down and would not rise.

‘Seven times have I proved my falseness,
Seven times blasphemed the Name,
And the heavens above bear witness
That I was always to blame.

‘The heavens above bear witness
That sin is bone of my bone,
And that I shall still prove faithless,
For I am the prodigal son.’

The sister stood in the doorway
And weeping bowed her head;
The bride in the open doorway
Wrung hands as if for the dead.

The brother stayed in his chambers,
For what he had to say,
And spied from his dark chamber
On his brother where he lay.

But the mother raised her face,
And her face like sunlight shone,
‘What matters whether evil or good,
Since you have returned, my son.

‘Your father will never forgive you
Who chose the forbidden path,
But rise and receive the blessing
Of your father’s loving wrath.’

The Prodigal Son. Translation copyright Jean Shapiro Cantu, from “Selected poems, Leah Goldberg,” (London, Menard Press, 1976).


Big thanks to Lucy, who sent through this challenging poem for us to reflect on: a Jewish take on a Jesus parable. Most of you have probably noticed the Easter bunnies decorating every shop window in Warrnambool – but we’re still plodding through Lent. I hear many of you are savouring the #40ways40days readings, whether in the booklet or – with pictures! – online, and using them to reflect on your experience of discipleship. I encourage you to keep on doing this good Lenten work, bunnies notwithstanding. Our Easter might not be here yet, but it is just around the corner. Dates and service details are below.

Peace,
Alison

Emailed to Sanctuary 3 April 2019. Photo by BSD on Unsplash.

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