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C.N.P Poetry 

  • Writer's pictureCathexis Northwest Press

Eli, Eli, Lema Sabachthani

By: Matt Schur

It was Monday.

Jesus stretched on the sunny steps

awaiting glad tidings of great joy.

Bob Marley’s little birds

wailed their reassurances from a beat-up phone

and syncopated steel drum metallic melodies sang

with the guitar on the off beat.

Full-throated and smiling, Jesus sang along.

He first heard this one in college, he told me

before the legion demon voices

the felony sex offense

the scarlet letter marking him unclean

before hearing The Accuser’s voice

deny him shelter seventy times seven times.

“You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces,”

he mumbled to the departing rental agent.

And a freight train left Birmingham.

It was Tuesday.

Foxes have holes, birds have nests;

but other than the flattened box

behind the dumpster next to Duffy’s Tavern,

dirty smelly unshaven sex offender Jesus

had nowhere to lay his head.

“Who do you say that I am?” he asked the wind.

And a freight train roared toward Memphis.

It was Wednesday.

Driven to a random flop house wilderness

serpent syringes hissed promises of escape

through glistening fangs.

“Get behind me, Satan,” Jesus whispered

toward a crumpled reminder card.

And a freight train approached Springfield.

It was Thursday.

Flickering streetlights conjured dancing demons

on the pavement and across the grass

forming an unholy halo circling the head

of a solitary holy silhouette

holding a half-empty bottle of booze

and a half-empty bag of stale crackers.

“Can we meet tomorrow?” I asked.

“Do quickly what you are going to do,” Jesus sighed.

“If it is possible, take this cup away from me.”

And a freight train picked up speed north of Kansas City.

It was Friday.

Clouds obscured the afternoon sun

as Jesus jumped off the O Street Bridge,

his body broken for our sins

against the front of a speeding freight train

on its way to Billings.


Matt Schur is the author of Cross Sections (2021), and has had writing featured in Valiant Scribe Literary Journal and Unlikely Stories. He holds a BA in English from Truman State University and an MA in Systematic Theology from Luther Seminary. When he’s not writing, Matt assists people experiencing homelessness as a full-time housing specialist and case manager in Lincoln, Nebraska.

"Much of what I write is informed by my experience as a theologian and a case manager working with a vulnerable and ostracized population, and this piece is no exception. Based on a tragically true story that haunts me to this day, I reframed many of the details to fit the Holy Week narrative, culminating in a Good Friday death 'for our sins'—our societal sin of placing often insurmountable barriers in front of those we have labeled 'untouchable.' The seemingly random detail at the end of each stanza about a train’s progress across the country is meant to create a growing question for the reader that makes the end feel almost inevitable in retrospect. The imagery at the beginning is light and cheerful, growing darker and more depressing with each passing day. Thursday contains echoes both of the Last Supper (booze and crackers, Jesus telling Judas/narrator 'do quickly what you’re going to do'), and of the agony in the garden (demon shadows, 'take this cup away'). The title itself is an Aramaic transliteration of Jesus’s words from the cross: 'My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?' and foreshadows the poem’s ending."


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