The Hanging Tree
But it was done. And the body hung there
like a butchered thing, naked and alone
in a sudden hush among the ravaged air.
- B.H. Fairchild, "The Deposition"
Our Father, who art in heaven,
gallowed is thy Name,
*gallowed? Updike's Rev. Marshfield allowed the "happy Freudian" to stand in A Month of Sundays. I will too. It stops my daily Lord's Prayer after only two lines: the gallowed God.
gallow - a frame, typically wooden, used for execution by hanging.
And so, Lord, here we stand, on this Good Friday, a month of Sundays and then some from that Friday so long, long ago. Who are we kidding? We can't relate to the nails and plaited crown; we're too far removed. They cause us pain via church dramas and silver screen productions. But we can wipe our eyes and walk away, each believing we are right in our own eyes. It is true - the only ones who speak of crucifixion are those who've never witnessed one. But we do know of the hanging tree.
Can you see him, dear friend? We have to look up, up from the life we're trying to save, even if it is our own. The rope is so taut you could tune it. His weight is such as a man has in the pride of life. His hands are pulled behind his back; a direct mockery of the body language of power. His feet are jerking, jerking against the crown of rope around his neck. Although he tries to raise himself in the air, it's no good - he cannot breathe. The air is mercy-less. The grip of forsakenness yanks his tongue and eyes out in the grotesque visage of some clownish nightmare. The naked form who did not consider his divinity something to be grasped flops in midair, truly a fish out of water. He rages against the dying of the light until the darkness covers all. A final cough of bile and blood mixed sour rushes over teeth and lips and spits his chest. It is finished.
All that remains is the rhythmic creak of the rope as the gallowed God swings gently, back and forth. The ravaged air is hushed; you could hear a God hang.