Thursday, April 1, 2010

Maundy Thursday Poem: Wan Chu's Wife in Bed

The Psalm for daily prayer on Maundy Thursday is 55: "For it is not an enemy who taunts me- then I could bear it; it is not an adversary who deals insolently with me- then I could hide from him. But it is you, a man, my equal, my companion, my familiar friend."

Wan Chu's Wife In Bed

by: Richard Jones

Wan Chu, my adoring husband,
has returned from another trip
selling trinkets in the provinces.
He pulls off his lavender shirt
as I lie naked in our bed,
waiting for him. He tells me
I am the only woman he'll ever love.
He may wander from one side of China
to the other, but his heart
will always stay with me.
His face glows in the lamplight
with the sincerity of a boy
when I lower the satin sheet
to let him see my breasts.
Outside, it begins to rain
on the cherry trees
he planted with our son,
and when he enters me with a sigh,
the storm begins in earnest,
shaking our little house.
Afterwards, I stroke his back
until he falls asleep.
I'd love to stay awake all night
listening to the rain,
but I should sleep, too.
Tomorrow Wan Chu will be
a hundred miles away
and I will be awake all night
in the arms of Wang Chen,
the tailor from Ming Pao,
the tiny village down the river.


  1. Good choice. I think this is my favorite so far.

    Isn't it strange how we can feel "in love" with our Lord and our sin at the same time? I've talked to many adulterers who insist that they really love their wives while also loving their mistresses. The wives, it turns out, don't believe it, and the mistresses think the men really love them and not the wife.

    The wife in the poem above feels affection for Wan Chu, but it is not exclusive. He says to her that she is the only woman he will ever love. She says to him, "I will love whoever pleases me." Is that love?

    The Greeks, famously, had four words for love, but even this was not sufficient. Was there ever a language as poor as ours? Only one word for love? The result: an ever weaker understanding and greater confusion.

    My best attempt at a definition: love is self-giving. God's love for us does not fill Him with happiness and contentment, but bloody sweat, pain, sorrow. Thus the word Passion.

  2. What on earth does this poem have to do with Holy week?

  3. X -

    This is a poem about betrayal, that's why I chose it for the day on which our Lord was betrayed.

    The Scripture's main picture of God and his people is husband and wife. The whole book of Hosea is a living version of this poem.

    While I was digging around for poems this week I found this on an anthology website. I was reading poems very quickly and ignoring the introductions - so this poem hit me like a ton of bricks, just as the poet intended. It's like a punch in the gut - and isn't that the perfect picture of betrayal? Isn't that the original Church's (Adam's and Eve's) betrayal of God in the garden? Isn't that Judas betraying his Lord with a kiss?


  4. Okay, thanks for the explanation. It seemed very out of place otherwise.


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