Nothing more human than the fear
Racing heartbeat, crushing breath
Sweat breaking out cold under eyes
and armpits
Drenching the back
So overwhelming, you can hardly find voice
To say, help   Please
Anything but this

Nothing works.
None of the usual ways back to peace
So carefully prepared in calmer times:
Not the familiar place of regular retreat
Not these companions,
Paralyzed themselves,
Running away, or stupefied
You can hear it
Echo in them: No No No No
Not this.
Not now.  No.

Just take it away, you beg,
Pushing back the cup of sorrow,
Saying, Abba, Maker of Me, please, no
Unless this is absolutely what you want,
And how could you?

Uttering this prayer, do you, perhaps, remember
As a distant vision, three companions
Rejoicing together at a glowing table,
So connected, so gathered into love,
They are as one?
And One who has your voice saying,
heart to heart, as on a shared breath,
I will drink this cup, knowing that if I do
The drinking of it will bring back to our heart
Companions we have lost,
And long to find again.

But do you know what this means?
Says One to You, tenderly,
Yourself to Yourself,
You will enter separation, you will know
The fear that grips the flesh.
And you will be left
To heartbreaking brutality
Desertion by companions,
Loneliness so deep, you will barely be able
To believe
Or utter
The Abba that joins us.

You may try to pray
And all that will remain will be
A distant, barely graspable, memory of love
Dripping sweat, gasping pulse
Pleading for deliverance.
Longing for companions.
Aching isolation, darkness
Friends asleep, betrayal near,
Alone, bathed in sweat and

Kathleen Henderson Staudt,

From Annunciations: Poems out of Scripture (Mellen Poetry Press, 2003), rev 2013)