The Improperia: For Good Friday

Popule meus, quid feci tibi? Aut in quo constristavi te? Responde mihi.


Why do you look away?

Look at me: you put me here—

Is it the sight of a man alone,

Injured beyond repair,

Bones cracked, flesh flayed

That makes you turn away?


What drove you to it?

Old habits, too much wine,

A careless remark,

Or because I said the poor

Are happier than you

And the lovers of peace better

Than the lovers of war?

Or because I said a rich man

Will sit on a stool

And a humble woman

On an ivory throne

in my house.


You want me dead.

You want me out of the picture–

The rock strewn way

The hard truth

The inconspicuous life:

Not for you, no.

Ah! Now you are looking at me.

Any minute now, you say.


You hated me

As soon as I opened my mouth;

You tried to kill me then.

And now my mouth is dry

And the words come slowly

And all I can say

Is forgive them,

Forgive them

Forgive them.


I gave you bread,

You give me vinegar.

I taught you mercy,

You give me justice.

I led you across a desert,

You packed me off to die.


Would you kill God

By killing me?

Or truth by siding with a lie?

You check the hour.

You must not miss your supper.


It is growing dark:

My mother is weeping

And my brothers

cannot console her.

She does not understand.

Her love is simple,

Pure, like your hate.


Soon, it will be finished

And I will say, My God

Why did you forget me?

I loved you

With a full heart

And you brought me here

To slit my side

And hold me to ransom–

Not like a son

Who could buy his way

Out of trouble

But like a goat, a lamb,

A thieving servant..


Are you satisfied

With the outcome?

Are these smirking strangers


Have we reached

The conclusion?

Answer me!




One thought on “The Improperia: For Good Friday

  1. Tragic story. Passionately told. Overwhelming real and utterly human. Terribly wonderful poem. Deeply relevant too. A contemporary story.

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