36. Waking

When [Jesus] had said this, he cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.” —John 11:43–44

I slept
fitfully, and laden with dreams.
Storms lashed the panes, and winds
howled like grieving women. I could not answer
only claw at vanishing breath
and twisted in sweat-damp sheets.
The knowledge of morning came hard
but now a cool breeze dries my hair (when
did I open a window?) and birds
with morningsong: Come out.
By the door, a lone pale crocus
blooms in the mud.

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35. If

Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. And even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.”… Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me, though he die, yet shall live, and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” —John 11:21–22, 25–26

If you had cleaned your room like I asked.
If you had not left your shoes on the stairs.
If you had studied.

If you had remembered to lock the door.
If you had been home when you promised.
If you had only told me the truth.

If she had looked before she pulled out.
If she had used her turn signal.
If I hadn’t had that last beer.

If he had seen a doctor sooner.
If he had told me he was sick.
If I had asked.
If I had stopped by.
If I had told him I loved him.

What price second chances? What price
a clean slate?

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33. Homeward

“He who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way; that man is a thief and a robber; but he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the gatekeeper opens; the sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice.” —John 10:1–4

After the rain, the gutters
are decked with redbud petals.
The afternoon grows warm.

Outside the church, a line of strollers.
Each child emerging to its mother, and buckled in.
—What did you do today? Did you
play with play-dough? Did you sing any songs?
—Mommy, when we we be home?
—Soon, honey. Soon.

The parking lot grows quiet.
Overhead, a dogwood blossoms.

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32. What remains unseen

The Jews had already agreed that if any one should confess him to be the Christ, he was to be put out of the synagogue…. So for the second time they called the man who had been blind, and said to him, “Give God the praise; we know this man is a sinner.” He answered, “Whether he is a sinner, I do not know; one thing I know, that thought I was blind, now I see…. Never since the world began has it been heard that any one opened the eyes of a man born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” They answered him, “You were born in utter sin, and would you teach us?” And they cast him out. —John 9:22,24–25,32–34

It is hard to remember the darkness.
At night I hear the sounds—
the clink of coins on stone,
the hollow footsteps of the hurried.
Muttered sympathies—or epithets—
a young girl singing from a door, as if to me.
The breathing of cattle when I slept in stables.
Even the rain fell louder,
each drop a conversation.
And the feel of it on my face!
They thought me mad,
looking into storms with empty eyes.
I have not learned to dream in light.

Sometimes I close my eyes and only listen,
feeling my way on hands and bloodied knees,
but nothing sounds as I remember.
My lids flick open of their own accord.

I stand outside the town and wait for work
with all the others. They do not stand too close.
Wagons pass us by in clouds of dust
that look just as they used to taste.

Half a man, I had their pity;
healed, I’ve earned their hate.
Seeing, I remain unseen.

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22. For Toby, in apology

Many of his disciples, when they heard it, said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” …Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you also wish to go away?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” —John 6:60,67–68

We all knew you were dying. Even the cats
paid their respects, nuzzling you where you lay
in the kitchen. You gave us ample signs:
eager eyes grown jaundiced, graveled breath,
your playful body heavy on the bed.

I had eyes, but would not see.
I wanted answers. I wanted a second opinion.
Once more I helped you into the back of the car.

And so I got the call: Your heart gave out
on a table, in an office, alone.
By the time I fought the rush hour to your side
the truth was palpable, and cold.

We’re fools to trade our lives for phantom proof
when truth is there for taking, and for love.

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31. Room 304

Jesus answered… “We must work the works of him who sent me, while it is day; night comes, when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” He spat on the ground and made clay of the spittle and anointed the man’s eyes with the clay, saying to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Silo’am” (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing. —John 9:3–7

Shall I tell you that the morning blazed
with sapphire flame—ice cold, but with a warmth
that promised months of glorious summer days

as flowers promise fruit, and grey skies storms—
that cherries, hyacinths, azaleas bloomed
with God’s own rainbow, and an angel’s charms?

Here in this white and sanitary room
where weakness and a morphine drip contain you,
how could my vision, unseen, pierce your gloom?

The only promise here’s that death will claim you.
Still a wafer’s worth of beauty, if you take it,
though all I have to give, may yet sustain you.

We thirst for life, and living cannot slake it:
Still every day’s a spring if so we make it.

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30. The river

The Jews then said to him, “You are not fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?” Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” —John 8. 57–58

Older than footsteps, more ancient than its names,
its course flows in and out of lifetimes
and changes in the memory of a boulder
yet bends to squirming fish or wayward leaf
and tessellates the sun at newborn angles.
Don’t come here seeking stillness. Look sharp:
This day, this hour will never come again.

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29. Silence (the paradox)

Jesus then said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” —John 8:31

The truth will not arrive by mail
but echoes with the unread
catalogs in the recycling bin.

The truth will not be printed in the news
but waits in the clean uncolored corners
where the child has lifted his painting.

The truth is not revealed by conversation
but in the uncomfortable pauses
while questions lie unanswered.

The truth will not be found in books
but in the settling of the mind
after the lights are out.

The truth that sets you free
can be heard only in freedom.

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28. A worm and no man

He said to them, “You are from below; I am from above; you are of this world; I am not of this world. I told you that you would die in your sins, for you will die in your sins unless you believe that I am he.” —John 8:23–24

Underground is safer. Cozy. Bedded
in our own cool litter, undetected.
Rising our vibrations may be heard
by devils, robins’ ears bent to the ground.
Exposed we may be shriven in the sun.
Many are called to light, but few are chosen.
Underground is safer.

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27. In the alley

Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world; he who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” —John 8:12

High walls eclipse the winter sun
but are greedy of the wind.
A stiff hand tugs a watch cap,
cups a flame before a shadowed face.
He breathes to nurse the glow, and hands the light
to his friend. There is no need to speak.

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