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I flash back to you sometimes
in your bassinet,
your diaper and knit cap,
your loincloth and thorn crown.
Breastbone split with a chisel,
your heart’s hinge
is a teak diptych,
the altarpiece of my conversion
into father.

You bore the needlestick
on the backs of your hands,
and later, when the veins blew,
on the backs of your feet.
A chest-tube scar
still marks
the puncture of that lance
as though a stone from heaven scored you
with its atmospheric
entry flare.
Through that hole, your soul
burrowed back inside
to nest, as I had prayed,
for good.

They clipped the arm boards to the OR table,
prepared you for the sacrificial knife.
Afterwards, for three days,
you vanished in a cave of Ativan.

But then you came back to us!
I marveled at the mystery.

All those summers counting euros,
a seeker with a backpack
sunscreened and footsore
from the walking tour,
I used to eye with infidel remove
the gory glories of medieval art.

Midway through my middle age,
I was granted through your grace
into manhood, understanding
for the first time

Imago Pietatis,
the image of pity

for the son
whose suffering’s the one
thing holier than joy.

I can see him at last, the Man of Sorrows,
and glory in his heartsblood.

Boy of Sorrows,
welcome home.

The Image archive is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.

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