Reflections for

All Saints Day, Nov 01, 2015

Wisdom of Solomon 3:1-9 or Isaiah 25:6-9; Psalm 24; Revelation 21:1-6a; John 11:32-44

Poetry

Nearing Lazarus’ tomb

He’d seen it all. Swathes of nothingness
spun into stars, the slapping of the first fin onto land,
and now these creatures, by far the cleverest
and the saddest—though listing it that way
felt faulty, as if all happenings unfurled inch by inch
instead of blooming in one cacophony,
the apple crumpling just outside the city walls.

And it wasn’t even an apple, or fig,
or pomegranate glinting with infernal seeds,
though he’d accommodate their legends,
accept provisional truths, the same way they worked
with the earth un-sphered and stilled
in leaf-thin sketch.
                              To overlook
imprecision in the premises, concede
to the limits of both flesh and paper,
was what it meant to translate, as to love.
Which struck him as strange pottery:
roll everything that’s been into a coil
and score it with each day; cram self into cage
of clay and bone; daub their closed eyes in slip
and wait for it to flake off to new sight. It seemed to take
what they called a lifetime.

But they didn’t have that, not right here,
beside the village known as House-of-Misery
whose people rent their clothes. Before he even spoke
Mary’s tears were falling warm onto his feet,
carving clear trails through the coat of dust.

If you had been here. He stood
enveloped in the sound of all their moans,
entangled in her locks of dampening hair.
If you had been here. All grief’s audacity
pitched in her splintering voice, she raised her head
to look at him, and in her water-darkened eyes
he who’d seen all things felt this:
pain’s veil dividing now from everything
that is not-now. And he began to weep.

Poetry

If you had been here, Lord

Back a week from the grave. He pecks at the food
his sisters set before him. He is afraid to sleep. He imagines
the eyes of everyone upon him but they are careful not to stare,
a meaningless courtesy: the midday sun consumes both sight and soul.
His funeral shroud is unburnt—he won’t allow it—but his sisters
refuse to permit its being brought into the house. Sometimes
they catch him holding it to his face and weeping into it. It smells
so foully that not even the crows will approach it. He rarely speaks
but sometimes talks of going away. It is almost, to their shame,
to be wished for.

Poetry

Lazarus

Perhaps you are perplexed to determine
how two such disparate stories could be told
about me. But the truth hides somewhere between
and beyond these accounts—I was neither a poor
beggar nor a wealthy intimate of God’s Son.

If in these tales I appear as a mere prop—a passive
player in parables concerned with actors who wielded
some form of genuine power—thus far you may credit
each tale: I had no voice. Dumb from birth,
the real miracle for me would have been to speak.

And yet this never seemed to me a curse or even a lack—
I grew to love my silence, and in my early years I was
thought to be simply shy as my maternal sisters
supplied my voice in public encounters. Indeed, their
ready reading of my intent was all the miracle I craved.

I neither anticipated nor needed any return from
the grave—that was about his need, his purpose,
not mine. And to be enfolded in the arms of Abraham
like some Isaac or Ishmael, my sight simply a torment
to some rich fool—what is that to me? To you?

 

Revised Common Lectionary © 1992 the Consultation on Common Texts. Used by permission.