“Thomas, who was called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, ‘Let us also go, that we may die with him.’”
The one who doubted:
that was what they called me.
No one remembered
the bravery I had shown
on the way to Bethany—
bravery or was it despair I felt
remembering the failed revolutions
the cousins murdered
Miriam straining to deliver
and dying or ere they were born,
our two sons.
The eddies of dust
over which our fathers walked
in ages past are trampled under
by the eagle’s talons
luxury sits grinning and contented
in the temple
making a mockery of Abraham
and Abraham’s God
The flower of youth perishes
on the hilltops of Judea
and hope is a luxury
for fools and charlatans.
Yet there was one who was not hopeless
Quiet and resolved
Upon his dark brow lingered a celestial light.
Though we had been abandoned by all
He had not abandoned us
And I was resolved not to forsake him
Even with the expectation of death encroaching
Death sadistic and perverse.
So call me not doubting
for it wasn’t my faith that forsook me
on that night in the garden
when they led him away
when they bound him to a fiery wheel
when the hounds of hell stood baying
round the tree where he hung suspended
where the crude lance entered
and his mother lay pierced at the root
no, it wasn’t my faith.
it was hope.
hope was enshrouded
and lain in a tomb
and a stone was laid over its mouth
and into the whale’s jaws
poured the blackness of darkness
and the mountains of the sea were silent.
And the serpent of death
glutted and imposing
stretched its victorious coils
round the sleeping world.
* * *
When they talk about me
this is all they will remember:
the scorn on my face
when I heard they had raised him
when they said he had been sighted
walking towards Emmaus
breaking bread and disappearing
amid quiet laughter.
Buoyed with renewed expectation
they floated together
and I stood alone on the seashore
and the stars of twilight twinkled
as the shadows gathered round me.
And whenever the story is told
they’ll laugh at me for not believing
though if you had been there with us
you’d have had your questions
and they all gathered round him
and I lingered at the edges
feeling faint with confusion and sadness
as the smell of frankincense and spikenard
filled the warm spring air.
And when the commotion settled
and the twelve spread apart
there he was
and he motioned me forward
and it wasn’t a ghost nor a trance
he was just as alive as he had been
three days before
and I had no idea how to account for that
because I had known all along he was going to die
and the best I could have hoped for was to die alongside him.
But when I saw the wrists
where the wounds of betrayal burned dully
when I dipped my hand in the well
where the waters of life had poured out
when I brushed the skin of my arms
against the hair on the back of his neck
the embers of injustice blew away into nothing
and bitterness exhausted itself and was silent.
Years from now
when my desire is finally granted
when my blood seeps over the barbaric stones
of some desolate isle
and my body grows cold and rigid
pierced by the four lances
I’ll stretch my stiffening sinews
Breathe a final prayer
And when death comes gliding over the seas to meet me
like a ghostly mirage of one I loved long ago
I’ll follow it fearless and undaunted
through the primordial depths
where the monsters of chaos will battle
until one comes to free them
and the dust of the tomb is plundered
and the relics are gathered from the shrines
and the bones are called out of the blackness.
And I’ll gaze on myself
and on them
as we gazed on him that night
credulous but believing
not understanding but no longer doubting
and we’ll walk together, tranquil and quiet,
on the shore of the sun-rimmed sea.