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Sunday, April 10, 2011

Getting ahead of myself...with 'The Shortest Verse'

I'll post this prose poem prompted by today's Gospel Lesson from John 11, even though it's the second poem today, because I know I'll be more than busy tomorrow...Can you distinguish the various characters' voices, even though I didn't use quotation marks??
The Shortest Verse

Jesus wept.   John 11:35

Lord, if you had only been here!
   It's okay he says in reply,
   everything will be all right.
How's that again?!  It comes out
as a retort, though she'd planned
to keep her cool.
He's been dead for four whole days!
   Where have you laid him,
   he asks, partly to divert attention.
(They are attracting a crowd.)
Leading the way, quieting her sniffles,
I know you can do anything, she adds,
a palliative afterthought -- or
is it but another, not-so-veiled, barb?
A challenge to show, not tell.
It was only a short walk to their brother's tomb.
Nobody had been able to persuade them
to let their brother rest at greater distance
from their hearts and from their home.
   He turns his head aside,
   lest his anguish become audible to the crowd,
   who understand well enough; but he hesitates,
   hot, salty tears, or is it sweat,
   coursing down his cheeks. Hesitates long enough to hear,
If only you had come, this, from the younger one,
she who had shown such promise.
   Now open it, he says, indicating that they
   should roll away the stone.  Is he thinking
   Oh God, is this how you will shut me in,
   who've lived three years on this earth, under sky
 Four days!!, the elder repeats,  But it will stink!
   Does he sigh, then, or draw a mighty breath?
   He calls in a mighty voice, Come forth!!
And the dead man comes walking.  Of course.
   He can do anything.  But they've forced his hand.

   Does he weep because his friend has died?
   Does he weep because he knows what his heart wants,
   and that he is capable of doing it?
   Or does he weep because, despite their words,
   he knows they still do not believe, or,
   believing, still do not understand?

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