Thomas Didymus

When Mary Magdalene     said she’d seen
the Lord     it was strangely disappointing
One of the worst women     saved from the street
to have been first     I knew it must be true
that’s just what he would do     but then
when I was the only one     to fight fear
& search for myself     the others lagging behind
it was like the soldier’s spear     went right through
me too     when I returned to hear
the others bragging    (that was the worst)
that I was the only one     not to have been there
not to have seen where his hands were pierced
I went into denial     I won’t believe     I said
Anything less than my fingers in his wounds
won’t be enough     My words sounded odd
to my ears     A week later I was among
them when he appeared     & called my bluff
My Lord & my God     Conviction rolled off my tongue

He’s not here

There’s no Jesus on the page.
No church or priest or wafer.
He’s a dark figure. An inky
character he is, that Jesus.
Here there’s no ink for him.

These are not holy words
and this is no evangelistic sermon.
It’s no polemic. This poem’s plain,
as plain as rain and oil and wine.
It may speak of a rough-cut slab,

but there’s no altar and no wood.
There’s no ram or holocaust.
The writing’s black marks
like smudges on a linen cloth
under a kind and lambent light.

Haircuts & tacos

That’s what the sign says
on the storefront in Bullhead City
along the steaming Colorado.

Which would you want first?
Either way, you’ll be tasting
split ends in your refried beans.

But think about the time saved,
about all the things we might
combine: Gas & Perm,

Laundromat & Five-Stud Poker
(Hold ’em & Fold ’em),
Freshman Comp & Foot Massage.

Efficiency. Eclecticism.
These are signs of democracy,
the little engines that make us

mix our metaphors, Free Wi-Fi
While U Wait in the green room,
the jury box, the wedding chapel.

Shadow and light

Sometimes to the eye, the green shadow of the vine
has more substance than the vine itself, its leaves
fluttering, translucent awnings in the mind.

Tall morning shadows of children exaggerate
the future everywhere. Saints and reprobates alike
cast shadows in the harsh light of the real.

And memory is full of shadows, borrowing light
from contemplation to discern the faces and forms
of all who have slipped away from our embrace.

If in that last darkness there is light, jasper walls
will test our final substance. Perhaps the dead will
know us first by tracing the shadows that we cast.

At the tomb II

His offering made us see what could be done
With flesh and blood. First, we had eaten from
His gestures—wine and bread—and what we’d been
Was gone. We knew that we belonged to him.

Then, waiting with our grief beside the tomb,
We were made humble, and our faces wet.
We wanted his return; we wanted him,
The way he made our truth immediate.

But he was gone, and what would happen now?
We felt the loss that he’d inherited,
The loss we’d given him, that pierced him through.
There, we were bound by all that wasn’t said.

And, finally, realizing what was known,
We closed our eyes, and saw him rise through stone.