Thursday, April 5, 2007

After Lazarus Was Raised, Poem

The day after the one He loved was raised,
the only one He wept over, that mortal
has a headache from his dizzying fast
and his bowels are twisted with disuse.
He is half-bald, having lost hair over grave
days of sloughing skin and keratin,
but a fresh crop is blooming over his crown.
The mourners are back to work, the curious
come for a look, and the priests have a long
talk with him, explaining that he had just
taken a long nap and been accidentally left
behind a rock. They didn’t convince the risen
man, who had smelled his foulness as
the cerements unfurled. His dead skin
stretched over him like a coat of jaded fuzz,
like the rind of a spoiled peach; his freshly-live
flesh was bursting up from underneath, pink
newskin tender as that under a burn’s
puffy blister. They all saw it as they
unwrapped his limbs, his torso, his face,
his nakededness which now reweaves
the lost epidermis like a garment of spring
leaves. So the priests plot to kill him
again, to put the issue to its final rest. “Go
ahead,” Lazarus says, choking, as they rock
the knife against his throat. “You think He
won’t raise me again?” “You never spoke
for Him before,” they accuse, but they
go away to do away with Him instead.

Lazarus carries figs in his purse and his feet
burn in the sand at the shore. His eyes tear
with the harsh sunlight after days of rest
in cool darkness. His shoulders are red
and blistered from the sun and the splash
of saltwater over his hands. He holds
them out again to be sure, examining
his pulsing blue veins, the palms just cut
from the pull of the full nets.

His sister Martha is tired from doting on
him, from nights spent in futile nursing
and misspilled tears. She lingers
in the storeroom assessing the losses
taken for the sake of one propitious
miracle, the goods spent on an untimely
funeral which would undoubtedly have
to be repeated. Not to mention feeding
the gimps and gawkers who always follow
Him, though even they are scarce now
with the necrotic whiff that clings to Him
and the spies that hook a line into His
every word. Even Peter—brash, heedless—
slinks. She slumps on the floor in
the windowless room, wrapping herself
in worry for Jesus’ capture, for the coming
emptying of Him who fills her house
with His visits.

Her brother and sister are useless to her;
they don’t count in the normal measures:
loaves, carafes, and minutes—there’s one
more jar of perfume Mary has set aside
for another anointing, another death.
Martha grieves for her own tomb-darkness
and hopes with her own sweet sureness,
straight and good, but never as gaping
open as Mary’s faith, wide as petals
stretching and bowing and falling in
sunlight, nor wondering as Lazarus’
astonishment. She speaks in discrete
words while they whistle in sighs.
But who else would attend to all of them?

At home after the supper that Martha
served at, that Lazarus inclined at, with
the Lord, whom Mary anointed, her hair
rank with candle smoke and embalming
perfume: Mary’s gown sweeps the earth
floor, her feet are pricked by grains of dirt
caught between her toes. Brother
and sister shine in moonlight, Lazarus
burnt red, Mary alabaster white, the one
brought back, the other stretching
her arms up, begging to be lifted there.
Their earth-sight dims in the darkness,
and their pupils broaden with shroud light,
black tomb-presence and the weight
of the unseen pushing before them, carried
in loping rain clouds which hide the full
sorrowing moon. The two sit opposite
each other, silent with words too bloated
to escape their throats, the waiting hanging
between them like a curtain as the balance
of the earth pauses before the unleashing
of the awful earthquake.

On the second night of his second life
Lazarus lay down on his scratchy straw
palette watching the stars that still beckon
at his window. His death had cut across
the middle of his lifespan, split like
an overfull fishnet and then carefully
rewoven. His waist rope was frayed as if
from the grip of His hands yanking him
back from his end journey, the numbered
hairs from his head shed as if from Hades
back to the walled grave, and he the only
walking man unafraid and in awe of the
life-lighted cave. And he sighs for how
close he was, and is, and waits for the knock
on the door of a friend, who will come
one night soon with the news that He
who loves him has been taken away.

CC 2007 Sharon Mollerus

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