A Scene in the Death of Death

A small group is assembled at a new grave, at dusk, in the late summer, in the country. 

The priest:

Our friend has died.
Now first, the first command, to calm the newly
dead: just rest, just lullaby, you son of man,
and come aside a while; a while you cross
your arms across your breast, and rest.
So soon the world is new, and ever full
of work to do. Your wife is with us here.

Dear lady, why approach this grave?

The wife:

On paths of air I seem to overhear
Two friends, two voices, talking in their turn.
Did I say two? For decades on my bed
I put the me-in-me to sleep and sought
but Love. When I would wake I’d wander in
the city where the watchmen in the streets
and squares would wound me, wound me for my care
till I was still and kept my cell — my food,
alone, the lilies of his nuance. Then
the angel knelt beside his head and said:
You may! And we were wed, were wed.
I am his Helper, I must dress his bed.

The priest:

You may.

The wife (placing flowers):

I give you, precious body, to the ground
until the time all times are filled, until
my spirit joins your spirit face to face,
our cheeks upon the bosom of our Lord.
So run, bright precious spirit, fast. Don’t turn
to look for me; prepare for us a place
while I am still. Be patient with my tears;
your leaving leaves the you-in-me alone.
Someday I’ll wake; I am accustomed now
to waking to your voice: “My love, all fair
You are to me, within, without, all fair
To me this night.”   So when I wake  —
I have no wakefulness aside from you —
So when I wake, will you-in-me recall
your you-ness when I hear you call me new
someday? You think (in me) all saints agree,
their ground is one, so: yes.  And so I’m still.
And everlastingly begotten out
of you. No personhood in me is not
of you (anathema to those who don’t
agree):  no virtue yours not fully mine,
no resonance in me not resonant
in you. But you are not begotten out
of me; begotten-ness is one, not two.
But we are one; one woman, we, without
conversion of the manhood into me
but rather taking of my woman into
you. An altogether one; equal touching
essence? Yes. And equal touching person?
No. Yet not unequal, but begotten, me.
An altogether one, but no confusion
of the you and me in me. An everlasting
two, but one and strictly simple in the
everlasting-ness. And this, our faith
together, I believe. Believing your
believing (I’m begotten) and believing,
in my core believing (full begotten).
Except we both believe, and faithfully,
the We is everlastingly destroyed.
We do believe.

So when I wake I’ll wake beneath your rib,
I’ll slip my hand’s liturgical submission into yours,
and join more full our choral voice intact:
the same as here I caught and held your words,
in sleep I’ll catch and hold — in paradise
and everlasting I will hold your words.

The priest (turning as the wind rises):

Susurrus in the cedars signals wind.
Whither comest, gentle guest, whither goest thou?

The Holy Spirit:

Procession from the Father is my task and rest.
There never is a time when I do not proceed
which means I always am From Him
which means…
I blow where I please. I please. Proceed.

The priest: 

Let all who offer nosegays now approach.

Friends, 1-5, approaching in turns: 

1: Before you was a hellish time, it seemed
the startsy died and left no heirs, what hell:

2: the Texts became biography and lost
the taste, the otherness, the firm, the sweet;

3: we lost the Dogma, lost the Table Talks,

4: we lost the Subjects, lost at last the Words,

5: we lost thefriends and lost the Way of Friends.
No conversation now in all the land.

1: And now those text-poor days the prophets saw:
the books all mean ourselves, all mean the turn,

2: the turning same and single wheel of days.
What hell.

3: You cried aloud the Dogma of the Text
and how it casts down thoughts, exhumes the mind,
and then evokes the Blessed Night of Sense.

All: When fought by men, declined all help but God’s.

4: You cried aloud the Dogma of the Talk
amidst the void, the talk at middle night
which reifies the logos of the friend.

All: When fought by men, declined all help but God’s.

5: You cried aloud the Dogma of the Church
(which made the churches rage) and desecrated
household gods and broke their haughty cult.

All: When fought by men, declined all help but God’s.

The priest (in a strong voice):

And when the catechumens had departed,
cried you, loud, the Dogma: Trinity!
Then lived the Triad of the Godhead’s life:
distinct in personhood, yet one with
all the faithful, one profound, and one
because distinct, and more distinct as oneness
grows. You lived the triad while the others learned;
You taught their arts while you were dancing yours;
You taught begotten-ness to Sons, then taught
the Spirits whose procession-ness you learned
While needing Son to dance the Father’s part
While needing Son to teach the Spirit’s part
And needing Father both to learn and teach.

You taught their arts while you were dancing
yours and learning yours; living yours while needing
theirs and yours, to live the Oneness as the ground
for personhood, which feeds, in turn, the Oneness.

Teaching to the Son-begottens, then,
The Oneness; to processionists of Spirit
Too, and then the art of One-ness,
Art beyond the oneness of a single dyad.
Finally, teaching unbegotten-ness
of Father to a Son, the needing-nothing-ness,
as Son in Son-ness for the Father
while as Father, teaching.

And yet there is no part of Oneness each
provides, for Oneness is unparted. Yet
the Oneness you have labored like a mother so
to birth is starved or nourished by the least of these,
For Oneness is unparted. Each must dance.

And yet before the Finally was no time,
And yet no dancing followed Then in time,
And yet the Then and Finally are to be
Believed, for One is not confusion. Yet
the Needing is no blurring of distinction
for the Needing says that Three is not division.

The While is when
the Three-in-One is lived,
is lived in Now.

The Yet is how
The Three-in-One is lived,
Is lived by Dance.

The Dance inheres
The Three in One, inheres
The Yet in While
In One.

The priest (turning, startled):

What’s there?
A slither in the winnows of the fields
a hiss beneath the hiss of rain beneath
the hiss of wind in hay announces devil.
Accuser? Where have you been?

The snake:

Oh, just here and there.

The priest:

Like every heretic you hate your time:
You always drag in late and so you hear
just parts of texts and so you fear a plot.
You slither to and fro in your erosion of
the world. You never sleep, you never weep,
you are the lawyer of the beasts and come
disputing for the corpse, which you can have.
You stay.

(To the saint)
He wants to sift you, friend, and he can surely
sift you. Blessed are the dead who rest.

(To the friends)
Now let the Grave be baited well.

The friends:

(To the saint, as the coffin is lowered)
We give your body to the grave, we seed
the feral world with worthy man. Oh yes,
you’re worthy of a birthday, noble: once
a year, the evening of your feast, we’ll climb
this knoll and sing, we’ll fling the Alleluias
to the nubile grass and in the gaping mouths of flowers.

The saint:

No man lays me down, no man.
The King alone can raise me up.
Upon your open palm, my God, I stretch
Myself. Remember me, and where I lay my head.
Upon my mortal bed I loved your thoughts
And fed among the lilies of your nuance.

(To the friends) 
But come, you ones who loved me, kiss me
one last time for I won’t walk with you
nor talk with you at evening while we trim
hibiscus in the garden, not again.
I hasten to the judge.

The snake:

(To the saint)
Will you wake up?
You saved the others, save yourself.
You braided cripples sinews, glued their bones.
You stopped the blood of sorry crones.
You prayed the lord your soul to take,
And then you died. Now will you wake?
Who said you would? Who said? Who said?

The friends:

(To the snake)
You wander to and fro without a friend:
The earth is not your friend, it groans at death;
The trees are not your friends, they clap with life;
The hills, who skip like lambs, are not your friends.
You have no friends because you do not make.
You do not make and so you cannot touch.
Now come, just love the world, just make…
a poem? Make the several peoples weep to hear
the beauty of your native land. Or come,
A watercolor
of the laughing dapple
on a red Nasturtium
on a certain morning
through a certain window
on Nantucket?

The snake:

(To the saint)
What is a man, that he should notice you?
You’re dirt. He counts the sparrows, sure,
But does he tabulate the feces of the worm?
Perhaps he’s fallen through the outhouse floor.
Or sick on holy wine, collapsed behind the door.

The friends:

(To the snake)
The fullness of the earth is all the Lord’s:
The mystic rose, the rain, the ranting newt.

The snake:

(To the saint)
You trust in God, let him deliver you.
Perhaps he’s on a nap.
You prayed the lord your soul to keep?
Perhaps it taxes him to herd the galaxies like sheep,
Or if he putters off to trim the wicks of stars
Will he remember you? Will he? Will he?

The saint:

My God:
Hyenas snort about me in the dark,
I hear them rustle in the bush, I hear
them crying for permission now to tear
and test my spirit in their jaws. Forgive
them, for they know not what they do, forgive
their slowness at this kill. I will be ground
to wheat between their teeth. I will be wheat.
No beast among you hesitate; I will
compel you to fulfill your proper office.

The snake:

(to the saint)
You trust in God, let him deliver you.
You prayed the lord your soul to keep?
You saved the others, save yourself.
What is a man that he should notice you?
Will he remember you? Will he? Will he?

The saint:

Dear friends:
The prince of predators has come, determined
to abduct me and corrupt my aspirations.
No, let none of you assist him, side with me,
but don’t prevent him, he must forage in
my deep and leaven his own gut with man.

(To the snake)
You must be tired, you thirst, you pine for home.
I gave you blood. Come curl around my side
and sleep with me and be my friend; I stretched
my spine before your sword, I gave you flesh,
though for myself I fast; I have no taste
for Eden’s food — no, bread is what I crave,
celestial bread, the flesh of Jesus Christ…
and for my drink I’ll have His blood, and have
it new today, my blood for Blood, my flesh
will hurtle to our home, back to His flesh
that I have loved, beyond corruption. Come.

(To all around the grave)
My love is crucified, my soul is dry as death,
but eloquent within me surges,  eloquent
a Living Fountain surges, in a voice
of many waters, calling “Come toward
the Father, come.”   I come.   Let Jesus come.


Lo, I come.

I am the regnant Lion, I will
peer among the churches, judge the world.
A certain Friday noon I died alone.
I live again, my flesh has scarred the grave.
Confounded is the worm, confounded sore
the germ and rot, confounded is corruption
and the corpse has yielded sweets.
I’ve opened seals on books Archangels shut
and I will write the end, I am the end.
I am the One who died, and is alive again.
I burst Leviathan, I hold the keys to death and hell.
Now everyone who lives in me will never die.
And since my flesh has scarred this earth I am
the gardener and the adam of this place.

(To the devil)
I am the one who died, and look! I live
again. But come, befriend my scars; there’s comfort
in the cleft beneath my rib; my blood’s
indictment offers amnesties beyond
the grave; come die. Did I withhold from you
the slightest smile when all the morning stars
exclaimed with joy that I was good? Did I
not call your brothers gods? So come. I have
a judgment for your case. Or go. There is
no hedge around the grave. Go play.

(to the saint)
You, I see.
I am the One who died, and is alive again.
I give your body to the ground, I lay
you down, and I will stand you up again
when you are sifted, shriven, harrowed
like my friends are harrowed. He would sift
you through , and he may sift you, friend.
But I will pray: My Father, every soul
you lodged with me I will not lose and I
will trail them in my train, with Death himself.
I am the Resurrection and the Life.
You rest.

The wife:

(to Jesus)
We do.

(to her husband)
So yes, I put the you-in-me to rest.

(to the flowers)
You daughters of the field, I now adjure
you by the doe and by her young you not
awaken my beloved till he stirs.
You, Mordent’s Pink, I know just how you are,
so say with me just now the sweet, the text:
“I am the Resurrection and the Life.”
And oh, this stirs you. Whisper to yourself
and to my love but let him sleep until he stirs.

The priest, wife, and friends:

We’ll listen for the hiss, each year, beneath
the hiss of rain beneath the hiss of wind
in hay to signify the snake has come
to keep the feast with us. He wants to sift
you, friend. Since he is turgid at his core
he takes the voice of rest to be the voice
of resignation. He may drag his ribs
across this barrow which is dripping, so,
with text and which is lush with elements
of man. And he may scratch among the dead.
We’ll welcome him with green refrains. You rest.

Remember us; remember, too, this date
and place. Like every heretic you hate
your place but here is home. Come slide among
the cabalistic flowers hoarding texts
unsifted in their pollen, come, you trust
the hesychastic birds who warble summer
days away with arrow prayers they quiver here.
You come each year.

Jesus, Gardener: we have sowed a holy
man and planted with him, deep deep deep
some holy text and saturated foliage
with our hymns and your apothegms,
now leaving what you need to grow the site.

Waft, O Holy Spirit, syllables
along the bases of the tufts of tares
and wheat, chicory and thistles. Blow
the rain in after, mix them all, unsift
them gently year by year, about this time
each year, about this glade along this hill,
and over there, and here. Among the beds
you’ll sense the sweetness of the hidden texts.

Our friend: do yield your body to the earth
to seep, become your native dirt and enter
water and the air and seed the woods with man.
In spring you’ll feed the playful roots and climb
(a secret) in the filaments of vines and tangle
on the fences. Infiltrate. And wait.

For we will stroll beneath the elms again and talk our long and favorite talks:
the lyrical scorn of the Fathers for the devil and his pomp;
the triumphant realism of the drama of atonement;
the biform nature of the garment of skin — and ah! —
the deception of the deceiver and our ensuing glee.
You’ll see. But in the darkness of the loss
of form you’ll wonder, in the silence of
the passing years you’ll suffer. You might doubt,
so you must use this prayer:

” Father,
On your open palms I stretched myself;
now at my waking you must raise me up
from bitter pains of death.
And in my body I will see you smile.
though I fished all night,
though my nets are thin,
though my arms bemoan the cruelty of oars
yet in my body I will hear you call:
“Children! Come to breakfast!”

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