We are grateful to Supporters who have shared their poetry about the Holy Land with us. Some of this is more general, and some is in response to our book, 'Holy Week Voices from the Holy Land' written by Fr Richard Nesbitt. 

Sunny Palestine

The sun is shining
So bright and the
Sky is so blue
And the river its banks
And so full to and
Bethlehem is such
A beautiful sunny place
I'm feeling the heat in
This beautiful warm place
And Palestine is the place
To be as the sun shines
So brightly on me and I'm so happy
In Palestine today
And I hope and pray
I get to the see the sun
Shining in beautiful Palestine
For one more day.

David P Carroll Irish Poet

Simon of Cyrene Poem by Marie Hopkinson

In Chapter 2 of Fr Richard's book 'Holy Week Voices from the Holy Land' (available here), we are invited to write our own poems on Simon of Cyrene and add our own voices.  

Thank you to all of you who have responded to Fr Richard's call and have written poems or reflections.  Please send us in your poems to: [email protected]

We will display a selection of poems here for you to enjoy.

Weeks ago they left, and here they are. The City of Peace is anything but.
Passover's here and, in the Friday heat, three set out to see a sight.
Mother alone, worried; some premonition from the night.

Nearby, four legionnaires collect today's victims.
Cursing their cohort for overdoing the 'fun'; too much beer!
Three one-way tickets for Golgotha - their orders clear.

Failure to deliver not an option;
Two are fine, one near death - at the back of the row.
Down he goes, "Jove, we've got a mile to go!"

Too much blood lost through the shredded skin
but he's up and reeling despite the din.
The eighty pound crossbar is weighing Him down,
He must make it or they'll be the talk of the town.

One says "grab someone!" - Who? How?
Strong but not stroppy, and there he is now!

This tall strapping foreigner - no pals and kids in tow.
Perfect. Man will bend to Roman sins
And kids will know brutality wins.

Three guards push, swear and cajole
a way through the packed, unfriendly mob.
Why, today, to get this job?

The fourth sees his mark - an order is barked;
the noise too great; Simon too slow to duck and run,
besides - he'd like to see the fun.

His boys swept aside, a hand to his throat, a blade in his side.
There's nowhere to hide.

He signs 'keep close' and stands by the form - battered, bloodied.
Who is it - but is he worried?
Not him at least. 'Getting his just dessert!'
Slowly rocking, subject to so much mocking.

Now eyes meet - calm, acceptance, forgiveness. Love.
Please help him, God above!

He lifts the beam - God it's heavy!
The victim reels - and then he's steady.

Hand grabs my arm - the look is grateful.
No Word is spoken, necessary - fateful.

Whips crack, Jesus flinches and moves.
The father follows faithfully the victim's shoes.
Left, right - striped shaded then sunny - along the track
Oddly resembling this man's beaten back.

Prisoner's blood coats helper's hands, arms and neck.
Sticky, smells of iron. Flies buzz and settle.
Testing his mettle.

Suddenly, Simon's silent, panicked world erupts in cacophony.
Noise crashes in - screaming, abuse, laughter, crying.
Someone bets who will die last, first.
Soldiers bellow and shove, curse and fist.

On they trudge; he looks done in.
A woman rushes from the crowd - wet towel in hand,
Refreshing face with the precious band.
He stands erect, momentarily revived.
She's pushed away - luckily survived.

Why risk it? Who is He?
That she risked so much in holding them up?

He stumbles and falls.
Tearing skin, knees more abusive calls.
Beating gets him up; weaker but inwardly calm.
No hatred, the body 'says' it all -
To those with eyes, like balm.

Simon scans the crowd - loud baying.
What's this - the boys with the towel woman -
Ashen, shocked, bewildered, crying.

And now? More crying women sob
in the otherwise hate-filled mob.
Who are they, why does he stop?
"I don't believe it!" It makes little sense.
"Don't cry for me, but for yourself." I'm tense,
Who is this? Is he mad?
At death's door - and other's have more need.
Would I had heard of this Man's creed!

The end appears - he can see the top.
The killing ground opens, and He falls once more.
Face tearing on the floor.

Is He alive? How has He made it? The heat,
the blood, the crowd, the martial beat. 

Somehow He rises. Takes more steps. He does not bow,
Not even now. 

Two others are ready: stripped and fighting.
They're nailed down; screams and cursing.

Gratefully he drops the beam; the well worn post awaits.
Jesus passes, brushing arm, eyes meet.
Thanks, peace, Love and gratitude.
He is gone, life is fleet.

Glancing at the Victim,
Simon wonders what has hit him.
Never so peaceful, viscerally alive. Uplifting.
Yet so much violence, dehumanisation. Degrading.

How can I feel this way? What is happening to me?
Is this really coming to be?

Final careless shove; just as he begins to hope
Simon now falls down the slope.
The baying crowd closes in.
Hammer blows, squeals, din.
Women cry, men laugh and mock.

Simon's shaking. Wipes blood from face.
What , he wonders, of the human race?
He is different - and knows it - yet
Still knows not whom he has met.

Had He said "go in peace"? Can this feeling ever cease?
Who am I? Who could transform? What a difference, I am reborn.

By Stan Grabecki

Asked, in the Ignation Tradition 
To be Simon of Cyrene
I faltered
I had never taken up anybody s cross.
What do I  
Know about suffering 
Me, with my comfortable middle class life

Me, who hopes to slip into Heaven  unnoticed.
With no questions asked.
Always the observer never the doer.
What does that say about me.

Chances are, I would have tucked myself 
Into a corner 
Just a watcher. But here I am 
Dragged into the light.
Forced to take part. To help in a murder. 

Who is this man ahead of me
What strange power is this he has
That I feel drawn towards him. 
I've always wanted someone else to make 
The decisions in my life
But why Him?

They have finished with me
Blessed relief. 
But l can't leave now. 
This man has a hold on me
I must stay to the end. 

By John Driscoll

I came on pilgrimage from afar
With Alexander and Rufus my two boys
To celebrate Passover, feast full of joys
In the city of Peace with it’s crowds and it’s noise. 

The hustle and bustle the noise and the stink
All makes me wonder and shiver and think
What for is the shouting and soldiers around
Some say the true Messiah’s been found. 

I see a lone figure stumble and fall
The centurion shouts “Hey you strong and tall”
Pick up the cross and follow behind
This Jesus from Nazareth mocked and abused. 

No room for discussion debate or dissent
I tremble and lift the wood that he meant
From the back of Jesus who sighs
Looks at me, I see in his eyes
A wonderful love as he sighs
And wonder why
They will crucify.

So very confused I want to know more
They say this Jesus is kind to the poor
And can silence the wind should it roar
Yes I’ll stay in the city of that I am sure
And follow my old ways no more.

By John Sylvester 

Why were you in Jerusalem, Simon?
With friends, with family, with a wife?
Were you on business, some mission to fulfil?
What bought you to that place, those steps, that hill?
Perhaps you were just like me – ordinary, easy to pick on.

What did you think when you saw him, Simon, grunting and wavering?
Poor man, damn Romans?
Or were you excited by the coming spectacle?
This man will be dead in a couple of hours.
Perhaps you were just like me – disinterested; selfish. 

Why did He choose you, Simon?
Your strength, your youth, you’re there?
Did you run, try to avoid, point to another?
Anything to get away from humiliation!
Perhaps you were just like me - coward!

What thoughts, what fears, what will happen?
Will they kill you? Spear you? Break you?
No good will come of this.
Help a criminal gets you nothing!
Perhaps you were just like me - resisting. 

Did you know him? was he a stranger?
Bleeding, damaged, exhausted, pitiable.
But his eyes, they must have caught you,
Speared you, captured you.
Perhaps I should be like you - involved. 

What happened, Simon, how did it end?
Your name linked to God,
Forever recalled.
Sharing the burden of our Lord.
Sharing the burden of my sins. 

What happened on Calvary, Simon?
Your cross now feather light, raised up to do its job,
Of crucifixion, redemption,
For you and me
I am sure I am like you - forgiven. 

My burdens can match yours, Simon,
My rewards are just as yours, Simon,
Expected pain turns to salve, Simon,
Anguish to joy, Simon,
Help me to follow you Simon, day by day. 

By Jim Quinn 

Simon of Cyrene 2021

I’m a stranger here, an outsider.
Different accent, what they call a country bumpkin.
I’ve come, like everyone else to celebrate the Passover,
That great re-enactment of God’s deliverance.
One with the crowd and yet somehow not one with them,
Always on the margins.
Don’t get me wrong, I love Jerusalem, God’s holy city
But it always leaves me with a bitter sweet taste,
It never seems to live up to my expectations,
I always go home with a sense of sadness and disappointment.
I expect a profound sense of holiness and other-worldliness
But I detect undercurrents of political and religious intrigue and corruption.
Perhaps this year will be different
And I will experience the sense of joy, peace and belonging that have so far eluded me.
Perhaps this will be my year, my Passover.

As I made my way up towards the Temple along the steep, narrow streets
Pushed along by a noisy crowd, I saw him.
A battered, blood stained man, barely human,
Carrying the beam of the cross on which he was going to be crucified.
As if crucifixion itself was not a sufficiently barbaric and torturous means of killing someone
But to get them to carry the means of their execution…
He was stumbling under the weight of the wood and the severity of his wounds
But no-one showed him any compassion
The soldiers kicked and pushed him to get him through the crowd and on to his death,
People in the crowd hurled insults at him, laughing, deriding, delighting in his suffering.

I stopped, momentarily, and looked at him, looked into his eyes.
It’s always a mistake to look into someone’s eyes
For they reveal more than you may be ready to see.
In that instant I could see whoever he was, whatever he had done, he wasn’t a criminal.
There was no anger or violence in those eyes, no hunger for retribution.
As I caught his eye, he looked at me.
It was as if he could see to the very heart of my being.
His eyes told of love, of sadness, not self pity,
But stupid as it sounds of compassion for everyone around him, even me.
In that instant I felt he had known me forever.

It was then as I was caught by his gaze that the soldiers pulled me out of the crowd
Ordered me to carry his cross. How could I refuse?
It wasn’t that it was an imperial command and these men were heavily armed,
No; it was that in that look we shared, a connection had been made,
I felt a sense of involvement in his story.
When I had done what was required of me, I would follow quietly, discretely and watch,
He and I outcasts together in this holy city.
Perhaps in some mysterious and awful way, this was going to be my Passover.

By Rev Alison Askew

We’re here!  Legendary city of our Fathers,
Jerusalem – our journey’s end.
A long pilgrimage with wife and sons
Alexander and Rufus, excited to be
in the heart of Passover week.
Crowds throng and push and shout in glee.

We heard that three men have been
chosen by the Sanhedrin
to die today –
two thieves and a man called Jesus.
Rumours abound that he is no criminal
but a prophet, healer and professes to be
the Messiah! come to save his people.
How strange that he has not saved himself!

 Then, ‘Hey You!’ a loud voice
and arm outstretched points at me.
A Roman soldier comes into view.
Why me?  Because my skin’s hue
is darker and stands out?  Because I’m tall
and large and look strong?

Up the steep, rugged street a figure approaches,
sweating, near to collapse, burdened by a dark wooden cross.
Go on, help him to the top, to
Golgotha’s summit!  The crowd spurs me on.
Should I help this man to his death?
Will he find me guilty for my complicity?

A lash on my back moves me on.
Oh Jesus, forgive me my wrongs.
Let me carry your yoke for a while.
No murmur of complaint, just a sigh,
a compassionate look as blood drips down
from the crown of thorns on his head.
Two women halt our agonizing progress
and Jesus seems thankful.

At midday I witness this man’s cruel death.
Strange portents – thunder and darkness,
the sound of the temple tearing in two.
‘Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do’
his cracked lips cry.
Absolved and relieved, I weep for my sins.

By Christine Ilari

Raising Dark Veils
Simon of Cyrene speaks

Even now I am old, I still feel the weight
Of that wood and the dull ache on my back;
In my ears still ring harsh voices: cries of hate;
The torn flesh; those echoes of the whip’s crack.
I, a mere onlooker, brought to the heart
Of a drama beyond the reach of my mind;
Compelled by some strange force to play a part:
Raising dark veils, not knowing what I’d find.
His bruised face will forever haunt my days
As he staggered, body broken by pain;
His eyes, fixed on something outwith my gaze,
Glowed like sunlit olive leaves after rain.
I look back on my life of love and loss
With a mind which bears imprints of the Cross.

James Knox Whittet

Simon's wife

I washed the blood out of his cloak
The first day of the week,
Although I'd put it in to soak
As soon as I could speak.

Struck dumb, I was, to see the blood
Just like a slaughtered beast;
There was no time to scrape the mud
The evening of the Feast.

At nearly dusk Simon came home,
Shaking, and at a loss
For words: those vicious men from Rome
Had made him carry a cross!

 "Poor bloke" my kindly husband said,
"Three times he fell and tripped.
He was already nearly dead,
So badly he'd been whipped." 

That blood I rinsed, so cruelly shed,
So long ago, has won
Hope for the living and the dead.
All praise to God the Son!

By Dominica Roberts