The second time the flesh was harder to put on
and there was no womb to shape and soften it,
unless it were Joseph's tomb in the cut rock
that shaped, perhaps, but more misshaped to a kept
mask, as a wet shoe is hardened as it dries
to a foot shape and the print of a step, but not
to the moving muscle and bone that walking was.
What wonder then that Mary, who loved his life,
mistook him for the gardener, and humbled by love,
asked only where they had lain him that took him away.
The men, too, were uncertain they saw at first.
Thomas doubted and thrust his hand in the wounds.
There must have been some subtle difference gone
from the flesh they loved, or a difference newly come
to make a change in it. Say the change was death
that had wrought hard with it; or say the fact
this flesh appeared and disappeared without
their knowing bewildered them. They did rejoice,
but only as though their hope had stretched too far.
And Peter went back to cast his nets on the sea.
Some grief is stronger than any joy before
or after it, and life survives. It feeds
within itself on grief, not nourished then
by other food, as winter trees survive
because they do not feed. Their mouths refused,
almost, the taste of the brief return; grief seared,
they could not savor it. The time did come
but it was afterwards, that a new joy
leafed over their grief as a tree is leafed.
It was the tree of grief that grew these leaves.
We share the movement that young birds learn
when clumsy with size, they grow to empty air
and fall, and find the empty air sustains.
So we are lofted in our downward course by the wide
void of loss through which we fall to loss
and lose again, until we too are lost
in a heavier elementthe earth or sea.
We grow in stature: grief is real and loss
is for life, as long as life. Long flight,
soar freely, spiral and glide in the empty air.
2006-2011 archives for The Daily Dish, featuring Andrew Sullivan