The School Bag

Eli, Eli

Judith Wright

To see them go by drowning in the river –
soldiers and elders drowning in the river,
the pitiful women drowning in the river,
the children’s faces staring from the river –
that was his cross, and not the cross they gave him.

To hold the invisible wand, and not to save them –
to know them turned to death, and yet not save them;
only to cry to them and not to save them
knowing that no one but themselves could save them –
this was the wound, more than the wound they dealt him.

To hold out love and know they would not take it,
to hold out faith and know they dared not take it –
the invisible wand, and none would see or take it –
all he could give, and there was none to take it –
thus they betrayed him not with the tongue’s betrayal.

He watched, and they were drowning in the river;
faces like sodden flowers in the river
faces of children moving in the river;
and all the while he knew there was no river. 1949