One by one, old men take him by both wrists
and are unable to speak; women kiss his palms,
and those that can, murmur: awed,
a little ashamed, as if queuing to the bereaved.
Under the seething copper cauldron
of the Bethany sun, he sits in a nave
of frozen air, as if carved out of meteorite,
the taut air humming.
And all the while, his sisters clutch his shoulders
—forming the triptych—
their tears in the skin of their teeth
as he looks at the mourners
with eyes like the veil torn in the temple
before an empty tabernacle.
And, looking, there were some
who would have buried him again
rather than face this difficult recovery.
Now that he’s here
I don’t know what to do with him.
At table he touches things,
then withdraws his hand.
As if there are no words yet
and four days in the dark
cannot be shorthand for a lifetime.
Sometimes, I’m allowed to glimpse him
sitting, his back to the wall,
watching a quiet will as it kindles
knitting like living bone.
Day after day, it drags his face to the sun:
the oblique, crone winter sun
slowly unpicking the sutures,
dissolving the shrouds that grew over his eyes
all the time that he was dead.
The seepage of slow, grey-black tears
under the skin
has made his face translucent
He is water seeking its own level.
Where failure is success,
and success is just a word
sealing the truth.
That there was a defeat,
He is a shuffle on linoleum at midnight,
a child at my door at four in the morning
still locked in a terrible dream.
Until I listen, he won’t let me go on.
Now he leads me to the threshold
of the first death.
He has crafted caverns to get here:
tunnelled up through the strata of years
unknown, unarmed, unsure of a welcome.
He is rich in grief: caryatids of onyx,
bloodstone, arteries of black diamond
like defined, faceted dark;
the spectrum of deep light.
In the second life,
he will teach me how to live.