No further task than this. Dazed, he lifts
his head from his right shoulder.
Jerusalem, below him, is an underwater drift
of specks, flecks, swirling in the tidal blur
he descended through. Such a small
place, really: hovels, walls, dirt streets,
young women shawled,
lackluster soldiers sprawling at the temple gates….
Eloi! Eloi! Vinegar and blood
swirl in his cry. The face that swims
before him is the face of childhood
running through olive groves, drinking from the brim
of a wooden barrel by a mountain stream. Eloi!
The cloth is rendered and the curtain split,
candles in the temples lit
by fever-spotted hands. And now his eyes
close finally. Upon the hill of skulls
rain runs freely as a pack of lies
coursing the walls
of his father’s house…. One night he woke
and saw a mourning dove suspended in the air,
then felt an angel stammer in his throat,
Love’s the only issue of despair,
turned on his side and slept, until the sound
of his mother sweeping, Joseph hammering
woke him again. And he rose to find
had come into the world, and it was in
the lamb’s soft gambol and the ass’s bray.
Upon a wooden table set with wine,
the freshly broken bread and honey lay.
The Image archive is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.