Sunday, April 17, 2022

Alternative Eyes on Easter—National Poetry Month 2022


That wandering Spring holyday is back again and means so many different things through different eyes—the hope of humanity, the critical validation of a faith, a fable, a fraud, rebirth, disguised folk fertility customs, community, family tradition, bunnies and eggs for the children.  Maybe pick one from column A and two from column B with eggroll.

Today we will look at Easter through three alternative eyes.  Poet and novelist Jim Harrison was an outlier—semi-reclusive, curmudgeonly, prone to profound melancholy and ecstatic joy in nature.  “Someone has to stay outside,” he told a friend and admirer.   Theresa Novack is a retired Unitarian Universalist minister, now a dedicated hiker in lovely and wild places with her wife.  Your humble host and proprietor of these National Poetry Month posts is also a U.U. but a lay person who is often unsure what to believe.

Grizzled is the word that comes to mind for reclusive poet Jim Harrison in his last years.

Harrison was born on December 11, 1937 to a county agriculture agent and his wife in rural Grayling, Michigan.  At the age of seven he was blinded in one eye in an accident which deeply affected his life and outlook.  He graduated from high school in 1956. In 1959, he married Linda King, with whom he had two daughters. He was educated at Michigan State University, where he received a BA in 1960 and a MA in comparative literature in 1964. When he was 24, in 1962, his father and sister Judy died in an automobile accident, a severe emotional trauma for him.  After a single year as an Assistant Professor of English at Stony Brook University in 1965–‘66, he permanently abandoned academia and turned to writing full time. 

Much of Harrison’s writing is set in sparsely populated regions like Nebraska’s Sand Hills, Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, Montana’s mountains, and along the Arizona–Mexico border. He lived in both Patagonia, Arizona, and Livingston, Montana. 

His wife left him a widower in 2015 after he tendered her failing health.  As he predicted to a friend with nothing to live for, he followed on March 26, 2016 at age 78. 


Easter Morning


On Easter morning all over America

the peasants are frying potatoes in bacon grease.


We're not supposed to have “peasants”

but there are tens of millions of them

frying potatoes on Easter morning,

cheap and delicious with catsup.


If Jesus were here this morning he might

be eating fried potatoes with my friend

who has a ‘51 Dodge and a ‘72 Pontiac.


When his kids ask why they don’t have

a new car he says, “these cars were new once

and now they are experienced.”


He can fix anything and when rich folks

call to get a toilet repaired he pauses

extra hours so that they can further

learn what we’re made of.


I told him that in Mexico the poor say

that when there’s lightning the rich

think that God is taking their picture.

He laughed.


Like peasants everywhere in the history

of the world ours can’t figure out why

they’re getting poorer. Their sons join

the army to get work being shot at.


Your ideals are invisible clouds

so try not to suffocate the poor,

the peasants, with your sympathies.

They know that you’re staring at them.


—Jim Harrison


Retired and happy--Rev. Theresa Novak.

The Rev. Theresa Novak has been featured in previous National Poetry Month entries.  She frequently posts insightful poetry on her blog Sermons, Poetry, and Other Musings.  A graduate of the University of California at Berkley, she had a career as a Social Security Administration manager before enrolling at Star King School for Ministry and embarking on a second career as a minister.  She is the Minister Emerita of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Ogden in Utah. This poem was written last year in the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic when newly approved vaccines were promising their own resurrection of a sorts.

Easter Came


I wasn’t ready for Easter

But it came anyway

The stone had been in place

So long

The tomb was small

And lonely

But felt safe

In its own weird way

It is like that I suppose

We can get used to almost anything

Slavery in Egypt


Wandering in the desert

Waiting for instacart

To deliver the yogurt

And over-ripe bananas

Not the green ones

I would have selected

But Easter came

And a vaccine

Better than any chocolate egg

The stone was worn away

And the tomb open again

So I crawled out

Ready to be reborn

In fear and trembling

I wasn’t ready

But Easter came anyway

As it always does



Theresa Novack


The Old Man at his desk.

About 20 years ago I was walking to the train station to get to work in the next town the line early one cold equinox/Eastertide morning when I was struck with this which was included in my 2004 collection We Build Temples in the Heart. 


From that frigid morning

            when the fog of humanity

            hangs palpable before our faces

            and that fat red sun pops

            before our eyes at the far end of

the reaching blacktop,

then, when from the highest,

            barest twig the cardinal sings

            his whistle in the graveyard,

our hearts know resurrection and murmur—a

            Yes, Yes.


We are a cold people in a cold land,

            and every creeping inch

            if yellow willow hair,

            every footprint

            in newly giving earth,

            every ratchet tap of woodpecker

            on lifeless wood

resonates with resurrection and nods recollection.


It is no wonder that in hot lands,

            perpetual in green,

            moist and ever fertile,

The natives snickered at tales

            of a hanging god,

            turned on naked heels,

            and ran to sensible deities

            who would not abandon them

            only to hound them on return

            with foolish promises.


But here, at turning time,

            our arctic hearts surrender

            to the sureness of the resurrection

            that surrounds us.

And in the echo of this miracle

Understand redemption too,

            in the merciful thaw

            or our glacial souls.


Patrick Murfin


This one was from an actual Easter morning experience in 2016.  By the way spotting turkey vultures is mighty rare but not unheard of in McHenry County.

Waiting for a Ride Easter Morning

Easter, March 27, 2016


Waiting for a ride to church Easter morning

            breathing welcoming Spring,

            counting buds on twig tips.


Then, up there

            against the high light gray sky

            five turkey vultures gyre slowly.


            What sign of spring is this?

                        Has the Body been found?


—Patrick Murfin

No comments:

Post a Comment