Winter dawn pinks even this dirty air, here where the currents of the world stall between mountain ranges. We awaken inhaling fumes and dust, the calls of crows, breath and prayers from around the globe.
A child in church, I knelt with the congregation, leaned into the wails of women around me pleading for the son lost to Chicago, for Hiroshimo’s victims, the girl with the iron lung. They would begin on a pitch around middle C and slowly rise with arched phrases into a high tremolo toward the amen, as though reaching to heaven.
Now the sun tears the gray veil, and doves repeat their soft, low moaning, for heaven is nearer than we think—in the undersides of leaves and in their shine, warmth on my shoulder, scent of bread. Even in that sick, black night when a man stood in the center of the lane, his arms out, pleading for the headlights to come in, as we stood beside him, now in a silent heap, his boots flung off, as we breathed “mercy,” as we breathed “help.”
Sometimes, at end of day, but not of care, Mozart or Beethoven our aural food, Her hand reaches into empty air, A tactile search for something understood; This is a nurse’s hand, a hand that heals, And yet, the reaching gives no hint of sense, No hint revealing what it is she feels, But still, incarnate eloquence. Perhaps it is within these vacancies That meaning lies. Or in the mystery Surrounding us in health, and in disease. Perhaps Alzheimer’s gives epiphany. She reaches her hand into the empty air; Who dares to say that there was nothing there?
Did the blessed mother note the measure of the moon? Ancient church tradition says they came on the same day— that Gabriel’s whispered “hail” shared Golgotha’s dark noon, that her pain embraced perfection and who are we to say?
It was exquisite sorrow to have her melody become counterpoint to her son’s words arduously spoken that afternoon of agony; below she stood mute, numb, to watch his body slowly punctured, torn and broken.
How did she ponder and how could her heart sustain a moment of astonishment, an anniversary gloss, now—forlorn as vinegar; bitter balm for pain. But she would hold to his wine, hard-won from torture, loss,
his new wine of forgiveness, now soaking into sod; trusting it could endow her to forgive even her God.
Listen! And hear the whispers of uprisings all about you, springing not from the blood of desperation, revolt from under the grinding heel of emperies; grounded instead in eastering earth and its hovering Spirit. Conspiracies of roots and bulbs and seeds! And who knows what under the stones the worms are up to?
Since time flies one way like an arrow, the sugar can’t be stirred out of your oatmeal and no matter how long the murderer sobs on the median strip—sorry!—he can’t reverse his swerve, cannot rescind his drink
before the crash. Like him, was Jesus heartsick to find history’s not a zipper running both ways? He who loved eternity—its roominess, its reversibility—as he grew up, did he have to learn he never could unsay a thing
he’d said? And yet today, like all Good Fridays, He hangs on the cross again. On altars he hangs. On necklaces. His death is like an x that rides the wheels of time to come again in ritual, that miniature eternity, that spring
re-sprung. Dear God, there in your big eternity, remember that your hands and feet can never be unscarred again. Hear these words spoken by a body that suffers, by a tongue that will stiffen soon and be gone.
Have mercy on us who love time. May this prayer be a tire that rolls over every inch of the way to find You. May it be a bell which can never be unrung.