This is a poem Becca Stevens, our upcoming King Speaker, wrote and shared during Holy Week. The poem belongs to Becca and the prayer at the end belongs to me.
I remember when I wrote this piece. It was during a holy week, and I was walking through the park and noticing how the chestnut tree was thriving above the cemetery of unmarked graves of former slaves. The whole scene was vision of the harm we cause, the enormous grief in the hills, and the enduring power of love.
I still walk through those hills in holy week and marvel at beauty of the earth that makes this journey so sacred…Alleluia.
With arms outstretched on the hill
An American chestnut tree stands resurrected.
In powerful silence she draws new life from an old stump.
Its blighted roots died with millions
Of her brothers and sisters
A hundred or so odd years ago.
She is a witness to the truth that love thrives,
As she casts a shadow over shallow graves lying
Stoneless and invisible in her valley.
The sunken earth is the only marker showing
Where our brothers and sisters enslaved were laid
A hundred or so years ago.
They were laid to rest in hallowed ground,
Wreathed in wildflowers, acorns and vines.
Laid among scattered paw paws and May apples.
Their graves are filled with the memory of seasons.
Beneath tulip poplars that witnessed
The solemnity of these graveside wakes.
This is the valley in the shadow of death where I am not afraid.
I want to lay down in her green pastures and weep.
This valley holds our broken history in her belly
And the hope of new life that sprouts on hilltops.
On this sacred, holy, ground you can hear
Owls flying at half mast cry out,
“We cannot kill what the creator knows is beloved.”
Nothing is forsaken since love runs deeper than
Shallow graves and dead stumps.
Love seeps through roots into hearts and blesses everything.
Over the shallow graves and under the resurrected chestnut,
We remember our treasure lies in these woods
Where thieves cannot break in and steal or rust ruin.
This land is where our hearts live and
Where we weep for blights, floods, and injustices.
But even if we wanted to hang up our lyre,
The bluebirds and yellow-bellied sapsuckers, like a faithful choir,
Raise a song that makes the weary believe there will be love after death.
The woods themselves join forgotten bodies, blighted stumps, and birds
In “Alleluias” for this sacred, hallowed ground . Amen.
Prayer: Holy God, we thank you for the gift of new life. We thank you that death, sin and fear do not speak the final word over our lives, but instead that word belongs to Jesus Christ. We thank you for the gift of grace which was breathed into this world through your Holy Spirit, and we ask that your Spirit would be with us, and those whom we love, on this day. It is in Jesus’ name that we pray. Amen.