Tuesday, April 03, 2007

an easter poem

by Michael Symmons Roberts
(from Corpus, Cape Publishing, 2004)

Food for Risen Bodies – I

A rare dish is right for those who
have lain bandaged in a tomb for weeks:

quince and quail to demonstrate
that fruit and birds still grow on trees,

eels to show that fish still needle streams.
Rarer still, some blind white crabs,

not bleached but blank, from such
a depth of ocean that the sun would drown

if it approached them. Two-thirds
of the earth is sea; and two-thirds of that sea

- away from currents, coasts and reefs -
is lifeless, colourless, pure weight.

Food for Risen Bodies – II

On that final night, his meal was formal:
lamb with bitter leaves of endive, chervil,
bread with olive oil and jars of wine.

Now on Tiberias' shores he grills
a carp and catfish breakfast on a charcoal fire.
This is not hunger, this is resurrection:

he eats because he can, and wants to
taste the scales, the moist flakes of the sea,
to rub the salt into his wounds.

Food for Risen Bodies – III

Generations back, a hoard of peaches,
apricots and plums was laid down
for the day of resurrection; treats for all
those dry tongues, soil-caked palates.

Fruit was picked, clad, crated,
shelved in beech sheds.
doors were sealed with wax, padlocked
and left. Children’s children waited.

In the sheds, each fruit still lies
cocooned in careful shrouds of vine-leaves,
tissue, moss. Each is now a dark, sweet
twist of gum, as sharp as scent.

Outside, stripped trees as light as balsa
ring the sheds and knit into each others
roots to stand. Mosquitoes cloud,
as if they sense a storm.

Food for Risen Bodies – IV

The men they silenced
-now heads of tables –
slit their stitched lips free
as if to kiss and bless
the dinner knives.
They whisper grace
through open wounds.

Food for Risen Bodies – V

Cautious and clean-shaven
all his life, the next world
woke him gaunt and stubbled
by the shrinkage of his skin.

He turned down the banquet
-broth to brie – ‘Later, later’,
and went straight for the cigarettes.
Do you have any with filters?’

Food for Risen Bodies – VI

Abeja blanca zumbas – ebria de miel – en mi alma
-Pablo Neruda

No longer ravenous, they smoke
and sip. Some carry tables out

to get a feel for sun on skin again.
More words are coming back,

so there’s a lot of naming.
Old ones still hold good – oak,

brook, crab, sycamore – but more
are needed now. They mull

potential titles for these new
white bees, as sharp as stars

against the ivories of cherry
or magnolia. Word gets round

the bees were new creations
made in honor of a poet,

so they wait for him to choose.
He’s in no hurry, cups them

in his hands, weighs up the tenor
of their hum. The sun brings colour

to the diners’ sallow skins.
Although these bodies were not

theirs before, there are resemblances,
and flesh retains a memory

even beyond death, so every
lovers touch, each blow or cut

is rendered into echo on the hand,
the lips, the neck. Some fall silent,

while their own phenomenology
is mapped across them.

Others look astonished
expecting their new skin to be

a blank sheet, but the man
who went ahead to find a route

for them came back with wounds
intact and palpable. No pain,

but a record nonetheless, a history
of love and war in blank tattoos.

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