Poetry

By Lynn Tilton


Eighth-Day Thomas

“It is finished,” I heard him speak those words.
(My courage began at his conclusion.)
With my ears I heard him say them, Cleopus,
even as he yielded his tortured flesh,
abandoned his earthly tabernacle,
and left us grappling with the aftermath
of an event that should never have taken place.
Yes, yes, he recognized the betrayer;
I recall his bidding him to his work.
When he arose, leaving so abruptly,
I thought perhaps he had supped to illness.
Who knows? Offender, offended, both dead.
He is! It was I that carried the flame
for kinsman and for priest who placed him there.
(The gifted others fled to out-run fear.)
Burdened, we walked the tombward path.
I paused in a turning, the light held high,
“Is he really dead?” Replied that Joseph,
“His limbs are cold, there is no throb or pulse.”
The other muttered some consoling lines.
As we placed him in the darkened recess
a group of loutish Roman soldiers came.
A royal entourage, they crudely joked,
lest some should steal him and cry “Miracle!”
Perhaps I could have learned more had I stayed
but there were too many Romans about
and in these times—
You must believe it not!
Womanly hysteria vies much with truth.
Did the men that day see him or hear his voice?
That apparition could have been a trick
to hide that they have stolen him away,
testing misplaced faith. Then, when we should cry,
“He is risen! He is risen!” produce
his body and expose us all to shame.
Emotion, hysteria, two sides the coin.
What! To you and to your friend on the road
walking the evening distance to Emmaus?
You say you recognized him not at first,
but just at the moment of departure
after the light had faded from the day? I grant a
brother; he has some, you know.
Someone else, but not him. I saw him die!
I wish it were true, that I could believe,
but I cannot unless I see, myself.
If I should touch his wounds, then would I know.
All about I hear, “The Lord has risen.”
The gifted others proclaim as you do.
Rumors abound in nearly every truth
but seldom does truth reside in rumor.
The guards, I hear, were paid, not punished;
proof enough that he was Roman taken.
I have not seen him.
Alone with him after the conclusion
I alone remain in ignorance of what
you, women, and the gif—the ten proclaim.
If he has, why am I not comforted?
The time is far past for speculation;
I do not mean to cast this doubt in you.
Nay, Cleopus, hold closed your generous purse.
With gladness will I yield our reckoning.
We must be off. The ten wait above us
while we talk here in lengthening shadows.
Let us go!

[photo] Photo by Don Thorpe