Today, Easter Sunday, was my final Sunday as the Abbey Church’s poet-in-residence, and I chose this poem for the occasion:
By Lucille Clifton
the green of Jesus
is breaking the ground
and the sweet
smell of delicious Jesus
is opening the house and
the dance of Jesus music
has hold of the air and
the world is turning
in the body of Jesus and
the future is possible
I adore Lucille Clifton, and I adore this poem: how Clifton locates the body of Jesus in the earthy and corporeal, how she queers the body of Jesus by evoking birth, how she aligns the body of Jesus with the cyclical, regenerative power of creation: the gorgeous miraculous nature of life, everlasting, ever-renewing. Octavia Butler said, “God is Change,” and this poem captures that Jesus resurrection magic, alive and afoot: the sacred impossibility of Easter is precisely so stunning because it is imprecise, ordinary, everywhere. Like the burst of daffodils and the flourish of cherry blossoms, like the fresh green of tree tips and riffs of birdsong, Jesus comes back. Life returns.
I’m interested in the resurrection as inevitable and miraculous impossibility, like spring and birth, a constant returning. Change and transformation are woven into the fabric of our living world, worthy of our worshipful attention. Ancient pre-Christian traditions of welcoming spring speak to this sacred attunement, like the liturgical calendar, honouring the cycles of death, life, and rebirth. Jesus speaks to this in his stories of salt, bread, and mustard seeds, when he unfolds the anarchist, interconnected, radically relational vision of the kin-dom. In the kin-dom, this interstitial dimension—in our space and time, while also incoming, imagined, enacted, and realized, unfinished—power-over is subsumed by people-power, power-with. In the kin-dom, that which bubbles up from the bottom inherits the fullness of being. I think of the revolutionary Young Lords and their People’s Church manifesto: “God is not dead. God is bread. The bread is rising!”
The resurrection is also a political act. Jesus was executed by an imperial state occupying his ancestral homelands, put to death for gentle subversion, a kind of rabble-rousing that turned in love even to the soldier and the sentencer. What could be more dangerous? I see the resurrection as an embodied disruption of carcerality: a breaking open of the principalities that enclose, contain, and punish. The resurrection reminds me of the impossible persistence of life returning, and that death-dealing systems (capitalism, colonialism, heterocispatriarchy, empire) are the concrete through which greening power of Jesus breaks through. The resurrection reminds me of Marsha P. Johnson throwing glitter in churches and bricks at cop cars. It reminds me of the mantra re-manifested at marches for migrant rights, “They tried to bury us; they didn’t know we were seeds.” It reminds me of the chant of the campesinxs mourning the assassination of Honduran land defender Berta Cáceres, as they continue the fight for Indigenous sovereignty, “Berta no murió, se multiplicó! Berta didn’t die. She multiplied!” It reminds me of Ibeyi’s defiant lyrics, we are deathless, and syncretic survival as resistance strategy. Easter is, to me, about miraculous impossibility made possible. It is about hopeful struggle, visionary joy.
Queer poet ALOK writes this on the impossible [read the full poem on their Instagram]: “We live impossible lives. Miracles are not exceptional; they are everywhere. Impossible is enlisted as a foot soldier for the status quo. Its purpose is to re-inscribe the the political coordinates of existence, stifle any attempt to stray anywhere else. When they say, ‘that’s impossible!’ they mean, ‘don’t imagine otherwise.’ Lurking beneath every crisis is another parched imagination. What if this world was just one draft? What if everything could be rewritten? There are ideas we haven’t considered yet. Feelings we haven’t encountered yet. Love we haven’t surrendered to yet. ‘Yet’ is the most wondrous word every built. Let’s live there together.”
In progressive Christian settings, I’ve often heard Wendell Berry’s quote in relation to Easter, and cultivating deeper relationships with land, place, and our living world, “Practice resurrection.”™ (I use the trademark symbol somewhat ironically, to serve some sass and to signify his overrepresentation in quotes by liberal white Christians, at the expense of theologians of colour. I do appreciate the ornery old farmer, particularly his poetry.) I challenge us to go further: practice impossibility. Practice living in the ‘yet.’ Practice queering the now. Practice transformation. Practice reparations. Practice solidarity with the world-makers dreaming alternative futures into existence: the trans femmes of colour, the Black feminist abolitionists, the land defenders constellating Indigenous resurgence. Practice hope: not just that things will get better, but that those futures are possible. Practice as if these futures were already on the way, already here, already breathing. Because they are: germinating, unfurling, fermenting, arriving. To say “Happy Easter” is to deny the hegemony of death-dealing systems and greet futures made possible, which is to say, life. So, Happy Easter – He is risen indeed!