In the middle of the world, in the centre
Of the polluted heart of man, a midden;
A stake stemmed in the rubbish

From lipless jaws, Adam’s skull
Gasped up through the garbage:
‘I lie in the discarded dross of history,
Ground down again to the red dust,
The obliterated image. Create me.’

From lips cracked with thirst, the voice
That sounded once over the billows of chaos
When the royal banners advanced,
replied through the smother of dark:
‘All is accomplished, all is made new, and look-
All things, once more, are good.’

Then, with a loud cry, exhaled His spirit.

Golgotha by John Heath-Stubbs

Today’s poem by John Heath-Stubbs is a meditation on Golgotha, the place of the skull.  The Romans crucified Jesus on a rubbish heap to maximize their derision, and unknowingly affirmed the depth of sin.  Christ came to save us at our worst, and bore our iniquity in full measure.  Our new life in Him comes only at the price most dear.

Writing in The Word in the Wilderness, Malcolm Guite says:

He identifies with us, not in our carefully presented surfaces, but in our ‘polluted heart’. In these lines Heath-Stubbs may be recalling Yeats’s brilliant lines at the end of ‘The Circus Animal’s Desertion’:

I must lie down where all ladders start
In the foul rag and bone shop of the heart.

But this ‘middle of the world’ this ‘centre of the polluted heart of man’ is the scene in this poem not only of crucifixion, but of new creation. The discarded skull, so frequently seen in paintings of the crucifixion, becomes the voice of Adam, of all fallen humanity, appealing to Christ from the ‘red earth’ from which Adam was taken and named, but also ‘gasping up through the garbage’, through the detritus of his own sin, ‘Create Me’! Your image in me has been ‘obliterated’, Adam is saying, but you, crucified with and for me on this rubbish dump, can make me new again.


How has your perspective of sin changed as a follower of Christ?



2 Corinthians 5:21

For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.



D I G  D E E P E R

John Heath-Stubbs

Heath-Stubbs was born in London, and educated at Bembridge School and Queen’s College, Oxford. He co-edited Eight Oxford Poets in 1941, with Sidney Keyes and Michael Meyer, and helped edit Oxford Poetry in 1942–43. Held the Gregory Fellowship of Poetry at Leeds University (1952–55) and he had professorships in Alexandria (1955–58) and Ann Arbor, Michigan (1960-61). He taught at the College of St Mark and St John in Chelsea (1962–72), as well as at Merton College, Oxford for twenty years from 1972. He lived for a time in the 1950s at Zennor in Cornwall. Translated, among others, Sappho, Horace, Catullus, Hafiz, Verlaine, and most notably Giacomo Leopardi. He was a representative figure of British poetry in the early 1950s, editing the poetry anthology Images of Tomorrow (1953) and, with David Wright, the Faber Book of Twentieth Century Verse, among others. He was elected to the RSL in 1954, awarded the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry 1973, and appointed OBE in 1989. Although afflicted by blindness from the 1960s, and completely without sight from 1978, he continued to write almost to the end. Ibycus: A Poem by John Heath-Stubbs, documentary film was made by the Chilean director Carlos Klein in 1997.

Malcolm Guite

Malcolm Guite is poet-priest and Chaplain of Girton College Cambridge, but he often travels round Great Britain, and to North America, to give lectures, concerts and poetry readings.  For more details of these and other engagements go to his Events Page.


ART: Crucifixion (Golgotha)


Oskar Kokoschka (1912)

Published by

Rick Wilcox

Rick is voraciously interested in the holistic transformation of people individually and in an organizational context - enabled by technology, educated continuously through multi-channel systems and informed by the wisdom of history's greatest thinkers. He is a Ph.D. student at Faulkner University, focusing on the appearance of the Logos in English Literature. He earned a Master of Arts in Christian Education at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and a Master of Science in Management from Sam Houston State University. His undergraduate studies earned a BA with double majors in Sociology and Theology from Houston Baptist University. Rick is an ordained minister who leads the Parenting Teens Adult Community at Faith Bible Church in The Woodlands Texas.