Menu

Poetry

1.

…so newly separated
From the old fire of Heaven.
                                           —Ovid

Already weary
from second living, new
dying of renewed patience,

old Lazarus of Bethany
betrays the uplift, desperate
for a death pregnant

with meaning, reliable passing.
How does one return,
happily, to work the olive groves?

How to age now? Even feasts
felt nebulous, and villages—
he seemed beyond them. True,

nothing terrifies like that
desertion: fading one
swallowed in the cave mouth,

linen strips to bind
the limbs. Though loss like this,
however uniquely it strikes

the forsaken, is ordinary still,
more familiar than altars,
fruitful as peasant markets.

2.

                                           …there is nothing
But howling wind and solitary birds.
                                           —William Butler Yeats

This Lazarus, body rich
with sickness, deathbed-ridden,
spoke of spent candles,

tabernacles, frankincense.
Dogs licked his sores.
His suffering justified

the rage, his matted beard,
the pure fear. Ah, the tomb’s
thick silence: its air balmed

his aches like lanolin. Those days
undenied, then the honor—
a rabbi’s tears as he bid

the boulder gone. He staggered
toward the stone aperture,
face wrapped in canvas.

Sisters could not barter grief
so quickly. Younger ones were called,
their return more painful.

They also know desire:
daughter of the synagogue ruler,
the widow’s son at Nain.

3.

Changed from glory into glory,
Till in heaven we take our place….
                                           —Charles Wesley

As for him, he waits—
impatient, stone-jawed, face hanging
like spoiled fish. He gainsays

symbolism. He knows at last
we are destined for this,
we serve one purpose, fatally,

make good on this clay-made
existence only in keeping
our good, last word.

Ether, end breath. Mindless
derelictions near soliloquy, twice
uttered. Truth is less beautiful

in rehearsal. This vocation
serves an instant, laid for everyone.
Then, only then, would the earth

surrender its mortal turning,
open wide the oceans
to let its inhabitants pass,

carrying clumsy dynasties,
their destinations somewhere
otherwise, and not here.


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

To experience the full archive, log in or subscribe now.

Pin It on Pinterest