Station V: Jesus is Helped by Simeon

Editor’s Note: This is the fifth of a fourteen poem song cycle “The Way of the Cross,” by noted poet Herman Sutter.

Station V: Jesus is helped by Simon

Many years after the fact
when pressed by a stranger
I recall nothing of the act.
     But surely you remember

he insists, astounded by
my ignorance or neglect
and yet I can only sigh.
Who knows why memory selects

Some events to hold tight
while others we release
almost as they end. A night
when I sat by a tree teased

by my sister until I fled
into the dark and sat alone
angry with the world, my head
resting on my knees, and a stone,

a small stone, bruised my heel.
I remember that bruise still.
And that stone small, hard and real.
My sister’s words I no longer recall.

     But this man had fallen beneath a cross.
     A Roman pulled you from the street;
     Told you to pick it up. It was…
My memory is incomplete

But I remember the guard
Had a nose like a boar:
Bristled and thick and discolored
and on his neck an open sore.

I was scared of the Romans
then. I was always afraid.
If they’d said, kill this man…
But I just did what they said.

Filthy men, smelling of oil,
and wine, and blood and olives.
An entire race one must boil
before touching? how do they live

With themselves? But the Jews…
I should stop talking. I am old.
I remember nothing, and choose
to remember less.     Yet how bold

     You were. I saw you raise it
     on your shoulder. I saw you
     step forth.
I was dragged.
     Yet you came.
What else could I do?
      They tried to get others.
I do not like to remember.
     There were men there, his brothers
Do not fan this ember.

     Do you know who he was?
I have heard things whispered
     But what the Jews
     are saying? That he was God?

     Do you know there are some
     who say he did not die? That
     he came forth from his tomb
     and walked among them, and sat

     and ate and spoke and...
I am
not a Jew. I did nothing
but for fear of Roman
     And yet your name they sing.

     Simon, the one who held
     the cross for their Lord.
     What kind of God gets nailed
     to a tree and left for…

He laughed and touched my arm,
     What kind of God gets nailed
     to a tree? I mean no harm
     old man,
his small laugh failed

in the silence and he rose,
his shadow bending over me,
     What we remember, who knows?
     You a filthy soldier; me?

     Some? Some, Simon, some see
     in you a great icon
     of service and humility.
     A bitter old man, alone–

     That is all I see. Simon,
     I do not pretend to believe
     but I will say just one
     more thing before I leave.

     Do not dismiss the good
     that comes upon you by chance.
     The Gods, it is understood,
     pierce our lives with a brutal lance

     and we must be prepared,
     as the Greek who embraced
     the swan, to find ourselves bared,
     and abandoned, yet placed

     within us is an urgent flame;
     a smoldering fire relit
     by their sacred touch! Their stain,
    like a scar, is on you. Accept it.

And when I looked he was gone.
And I shook as if with cold
and wept for what was done
and what I had so cheaply sold.

Herman Sutter is a school librarian and the award winning author of “The World Before Grace” (Wings Press, 1991) and the blog The World Before Grace (and after).  His poetry has appeared in, for example, Touchstone, the Northern Review, Innisfree, and St. Anthony Messenger.  

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