Massacre of the Innocents

Matt. 2:18, 10:28, 18:10; Psalm 116:15; 2 Mac. 7:29

Why are the fish and fruit stands closed today—
Too many soldiers, stationed all around.

My God, they’re pulling out their swords! I hear
A shriek from Rachel’s mouth, and thud upon

The ground. I turn and watch her faint. Her blood
Stained mantel falls. Her children are no more.

Despise not little ones—their angels see
The face of God. With angels’ speed, I clutch

My child against my breast and burst down steps
To hide behind moss-green stone walls. The death

Of godly ones is precious in His sight.
Amidst the moldy scent of dampened earth,

I seal his lips. He cries. A swordsman shouts,
Then stomps. Don’t be afraid of those who kill

The body. Footsteps pound too close—my heart
Beats louder. In the time of mercy, Lord,

I pray I might receive my son again.



V. Paige Parker graduated from the University of St. Thomas in Houston with an MFA in Creative Writing in the Catholic Literary Tradition.  She currently lives in San Antonio, Texas. 

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7 Responses

  1. Julian D. Woodruff

    Thank you for this vivid response to Cogniet’s painting, Ms. Parker. In the milieu of rhyme at SCP your blank verse seems to evoke the chaos of the event. Your alluding to Jeremiah in the name Rachel is appropriate and tragic: the disaster had occurred before and is recurring now on an almost unimaginable scale, not through the order of one, but a conspiracy of rulers and vassals. (Let me stray momentarily; do you happen to know the great Clemens motet “Vox in Rama? This is a powerful work that should be sung frequently in these days.) The end of your poem seems to reflect Cogniet’s striking use of light in the upper portion of his painting: the sign of hope even as it reveals the approach of death-dealing violence.

    • V. Paige Parker

      Thank you, Julian, for your kind words, and for bringing Clemens motet “Vox in Rama” to my attention. I have not heard it before. Listening to the instrumental sounds somber and stately, but when it is sung, it is truly haunting.

  2. Phil L Flott

    I so admire Paige’s musical language. She has so constructed her lines that you must continue reading.

  3. Cynthia Erlandson

    This poem does a brilliant job of imagining the thoughts of the narrator in the midst of the massacre, and also of weaving the several scriptures into the narrative. And I agree with Julian that the blank verse is well-chosen. Congratulations on your graduation; the University of St. Thomas has done well for you!

  4. Margaret Coats

    Beautiful blank verse, Paige. It preserves the music in the background of increasing enjambments. The irregular lengths of dramatic statement and inwoven Biblical quotation thus flow easily to your sorrowful but faithful conclusion. I very much appreciate the artistic planning that goes into a striking tapestry like this one.


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