Church of England Diocese of Manchester St. John Old Trafford

The Nail, a poem, a prayer for Good Friday... written by Keith Claringbull

I am a nail in a soldier's bag with a hammer;

I'm five inches long,

blunt with a flat round head.

Others like me keep doorposts up

and hold their frames together.

I have held, I tell you with shame,

a human being to a piece of wood,

suspended above the earth until he died,

by being hammered through his hand.

The man who did it - no I'm not avoiding blame,

only rightly apportioning it - the man who did it

was only reasonable at his task.

It took eighteen blows.

The FIRST (wouldn't you?) was tentative

The SECOND, more determined, broke the skin.

THREE, harder, drew blood; makes the process

easier, it lubricates the job.

FOUR met bone.

FIVE and SIX shatter.

SEVEN. EIGHT. The bloody job, don't think about it

NINE is getting done.

TEN missed: grazed the soldier's finger.

he raised it to his mouth to lick the blood:

his and… humanity and divinity…. .

ELEVEN is straight.

You know it's as difficult

TWELVE to puncture human skin from within,

as from without; but it's easier,

THIRTEEN if there's a good firm surface to

FOURTEEN it against.

Flesh and wood are of a very similar texture

jammed next to each other

FIFTEEN, in a hole full of iron.

And it's easier to strike well

SIXTEEN when the timber is well seasoned,

SEVENTEEN and the flesh

EIGHTEEN puts up no resistance.

I was closest to his death - I caused it.

and then I heard:

Nail, you are iron, created

of the earth by me:

and for that alone, I love you.

You are, this time, innocent of guile,

but not of implication

Mary's 'Yes' and your sin, together

bought humanity's salvation.

You held Noah's plank firm, floated in the flood,

a bow in heaven.

You hold my hand now, wet with blood,

nail you are forgiven.

I felt you near me long ago, you are no stranger,

The smell of straw and ass; remember?

combined with wood and formed into a manger

You supported door, I knock,

espaliered the vine.

Held together boards, the table,

on which I gave myself in bread and wine

Nail, you are a friend to me, with others;

you support me well now, with these,

your two brothers.

Nail, it is my love for you

which brought us to this Calvary;

and

Nail, remember, in paradise

I'll wear your mark upon my hand

eternally.