Monday, March 16, 2009

"Magnificent," That 'Surely'"

The March 16 "New Yorker" contains ten poems, collectively titled "Endpoint," by John Updike, Episcopalian, who died of lung cancer on Jan. 27. The last in the series (his last poem?) was written on Dec. 22:


Why go to Sunday school, though surlily,
and not believe a bit of what was taught?
The desert shepherds in their scratchy robes
undoubtedly existed, and Israel's defeats--
the Temple in its sacredness destroyed
By Babylon and Rome. Yet Jews kept faith
and passed the prayers, the crabbed rites,
from table to table as Christians mocked.

We mocked, but took. The timbrel creed of praise
gives spirit to the daily; blood tinges lips.
The tongue reposes in papyrus pleas,
saying, Surely--magnificent, that "surely"--
goodness and mercy shall follow me all
the days of my life, my life, forever.

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