Jill Alexander Essbaum: “Wednesday, Ash”


Nothing of me will survive.
This body that I wear will die
and my mouth–nevermind its loveliness–
is set to shut itself into a sorrow the size

of restlessness and lack.
The lips go too. They slack
at the corners crying no, no
but still they go. They do not talk back.

And then for every finger I have counted on–
so many times–there is a going, and a gone.
They leave to rest in pieces with once sad and
    pretty hands of grief
waiting for an Easter dawn

(which no one hears approaching when they’re 
    buried underneath the ground).
And my feet cannot quit thinking quickstep,
    swing, the sound
of toe taps or a waltz. Hush. No dancing for the dead.
The ball is done. The slipper? Nowhere to be found.

And my belly, full or no is quiet.
Then it will feast as a ghost feasts–on nothing, a diet
of sediment, sleep, a lily or two.
I shall not fuss, I shall not make riot

or rivalry any, any more. The eyes are vacant, tenantless,
for they have been plucked out. Relentless
death, you have withered shut my heart
like an old rose closing, pungent and motionless

in the closet of the rats and of the bones. Everything
    I am is dust,
or shadows of it, clay unkissed.
Having died in the desert, I do not come back.
Having died in the desert, it is the drought I miss.

How can that be? Nothing, nothing of us survives.
Every inch of us will die,
and not a thing that God can do will stop it.
Even Christ, the very self of God was crucified

and dead three days, entombed.
Angels wept as little children, women loomed
about His bloody, broken body swaddled in a shroud.
And then–He rose. Like Lazarus or bread, or any
    bright moon

which lifts as thunder over mountaintops and homes.
Like that, my God–save me, save me from the groan
and creak of a coffin’s rusty hinge
and resurrect us all, one by one–

all the bodies that no longer breathe or move,
and every soul that reaches but cannot grasp the 
    thing it loves.
Save us to a grace we cannot ever hope to understand,
such that in our dyings–behold–somehow?–we live.

***
    from Heaven (Middlebury College Press, 1999)

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