Pascha Nostrum

This is one of my favorite paintings in the series. I painted it while taking a brief retreat at a friend’s farmhouse during the summer of 2020. I sat in an old, cleaned out chicken coup and painted through a long afternoon. Beneath the painting, you’ll find a poem that I wrote on that same day.

Pascha Nostrum, KPB Stevens, gouache on paper, 2020
The Wheat and the Tares


I mowed a labyrinth in the grass twelve years ago, 
and it’s still there, although in this season barely seen,
like a faded scar, like a nick on the skin of memory, 
accepted as a momentary wound
and then as the gift of shifts in what could have been.

Blessed, the small scar of labyrinth in the half-grown grass,
the tall stalks, the undisturbed, wind-rustled sky of a small animal’s lair.
I winnowed the labyrinth above them, and now 
there is something other than wheat, tares, grain and chaff. 
Something holy, other, diverted from agricultural metaphor.
A scar that will accept the passage of feet,
the tread of angels with nothing to winnow.


What do I know of eager longing,
of the earth’s reclamation of everything,
of the spark, the anticipation of joy in turned-over loam?

Lightning gets caught in the soil and things grow.
I give joy for that, joy for the birdsong 
that strikes like angelic tread through the country air,
and the small, timid little twitches of fur against an animal’s heart,
quiet in a burrow, anticipating an arrival.

I am only sometimes a child of God.

At my approach, nature must surge and fall with the same disappointment
that I’ve felt, waiting for a beloved face and seeing it on someone else 
in a moment of mistake.

Would we all could be the ever-hoped for ones,
the arrival of electricity in soil,
the chime of new energies through the ceilings of burrows.


These angels with their scythes
must set aside their scythes
and walk, their burning footsteps 
dampened to wet cloth
among the growing grains —
stooping, discerning, plucking 
out the weeds,
the unharvested grain waving
across their faces,
weighted kernels scratching
angelic skin.

These angels are always working,
always fussing through the fields,
always noticing the small things scurrying,
the insects alighting,
the birds dense with their own life
against the harvest of the sky.

Tending creation, the angels might sigh
at the extra work, the tug of dank root,
release of weeds, the little piles
of them laid every few paces
on the dense black earth.


Let me be good grain, the anticipated 
harvest that sparks the angels’ work.

Let me be the rise and fall of sleek animal life,
listening as the ceilings of the burrows
bang with each angelic lightning step.

Let me be scarred hands,
the world’s scarred skin,
birthed to be marred by labyrinths, 
ladders that lead back and forth,
unending, as curled and darkly breathing
as the burrows beneath my feet

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