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Scent of a Shepherd

Painting of a dark-skinned, bearded Jesus with a lamb, from Grace Memorial Presbyterian chapel.

Elijah Walker recently pondered about Jesus, wondering if he bit his nails or hummed as he worked. Wondering what he smelled like.

I wrote this poem some years ago as I considered God's work of rescuing sheep and me, and so I share it now.

(Oh, and if you don't yet follow Elijah, you should.)

Scent of a Shepherd

by Suzanne DeWitt Hall

From the nightmare I wake

in pain and motion.

The world passes by upside down

an undulating sea of blue sky.

My contorted body screams

unused to the position

and broken bones.

My hair swings low

swaying with every step

blocking the sight of his sandaled feet.

His stride is long and even

shoulders miraculously broad;

my weight unequal to the cross.

My arms hang loose as I wonder;

should I hang on?

Does it hurt?

Do his stretching arms

remind him of the wood?

Does he thirst?

Wrapped as a collar round his muscled neck

borne like a yoke neither easy nor light.

Bitter streams of tears flow over my brow.

I should be in the dust before him

wiping his feet with my grief-soaked hair.

Instead, he carries me.

From the precipice he rescues me.

As I lunge for the edge

he draws me back.

To stop my fighting

he breaks my legs.

Despite my cries he lifts me

drapes me

carries me.




I breathe the scent of him

of sheep and wood

of blood and wine

of bread and man

of sun and moon and stars

of eternity

of home.

His cadence soothes.

The sweat of his exertion sweet

as opium; intoxicating.

My sobs relent.

I turn my ear to his chest

full of his scent

and listen to the drumbeat of dawn’s creation

the thrumming of the universe;

God’s heart beating against my cheek.

And I rest.

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