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A selection of poems by John Kelly






(The week that transformed history)



(Jn 12: 1-11)

The contest for allegiance heightens:

the raising of Lazarus disturbs the status quo. . .

friendship with you means risk, spells danger.

(How could it not? Did you not leave

your safe place of eternal joy and light to overcome

the prowling night and blindness

that here on earth incarcerate and deaden).


Mary’s lavish gratitude draws frowns and protest

from those with most to lose:

plots, too, are hatched against the one you raised to life:

faithless hearts contract, harden in fear and hate

at the question your very being poses,

and in resistance to the new, full life

you bring and dare to make available:

real food and drink for pilgrim flesh and spirit. . .


Draw me closer, daily, in this week of passio,

from the shadows of my fear

of following’s cost: unclose me. . .




(Jn13: 21-33; 36-38)

The dark proceeds by stealth and self-blind boast:


two betrayals, both of them foreseen but not forestalled:

one, even as you share this meal of meals, intent on wealth;

the other, for now no faith or stomach for your cross’s way,

but later, un-closed to your faithful and forgiving call:

an initiating love that draws all who would follow you

from tenebrae into the light of your own way, and its new life. . .


Yet wait, and look again, betrayal here is not just not two, but three,

when I allow your light to enter me; for then I see

my own proclivity for distraction and defection,

and my own deep need for your own Spirit’s help

to indwell, fortify, and keep me true and free. . .




(Jn 13: 3-17)

You show us how it’s done and will be done

by all who want to follow in your way:

a Way that puts the needs of others first,

defining self by service, not by wealth, fame, office. . .




In recent years, your presence streamed to us on screen alone,

restricted as we were by viral outbreak whose ill-effects prevented

direct partaking and receiving of the new life your very self-gift gave us

in transformed wine and bread, by your word changed

into your blood and body: the deepest bond between us,

the food and drink of life that springs eternal:

this unique sacrifice and meal of covenant affirmed

and shared in faith, and hosted for us all at your expense. . .


A greater love than this can any show?




The cross.

In all its stark reality and sublime mystery.


Two truths it tells as prologues to your Sunday rising:

the one, how far your reach for us extends;

the other, how blind and wayward our resistance,

how deep our need for inner sight

and your forgiving that heals and re-enables.


Your mortal days of life with us now ending,

the new life for all who will believe in you begins,

and new hope dawns. . .




A time for wordless silence,

for taking in

just who you are

and what you have accomplished,

and contemplating how I can respond. . .



Dante and Hopkins named it lavishly:

Christ’s vita nuova, shared to Easter in us;

Ignatius of Loyola called it: magnanimity . . .


How could we then, receiving,

hoard or dispense it stintingly,

like Scrooge before his Christmas haunting?


Christ died that we might rise and shine. . .

Then let our testing in the here and now

 be welcomed as a blessing and a joy –

no passion inutile but rather passio,

undergone with Christ redeemingly. . .


and let us yield our spirit so that each new breath

his Spirit breathes may, through his new birthing in us,

see others rise and shine eternally!






John Kelly is an Adelaide teacher whose third collection of poems A Schoolbag Full was released in 2021.

Topic tags: John Kelly, poetry



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