Simon of Cyrene

HOLY WEEK: The fifth in Humane Pursuit’s annual Holy Week series. By Elizabeth Johnston.

“Ferre eam,” the captain sneers,
his stained scourge twitching in his fist,
his Latin lashing at my ears.

The practiced legionnaires have missed
no thing—cross, spikes, and scar-browed hill.
But for my small son I’d resist—

he is too young for men to kill,
but these are Romans. I step out,
onto the stones, to do their will.

A Latin curse—a sharp-lipped shout—
I, angry, grab the blood-wet cross.
The rabbi, bruises on his mouth,

limps silently, with peace embossed
upon the face that once spoke war
to loveless fools.

I rage that loss

yet follow him. My palms rub sore
but when they tear the cross from me
I count myself among the poor.


Elizabeth Johnston is a reference librarian in West Virginia who spends her evenings working toward a master’s degree in history. She has been published in the Anthology of Appalachian Writers. In her free time, she enjoys coffee. Lots of coffee.

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