they wanted – no, they needed
to touch you one last time.
so they trudged the tombward path
with their perfumes and their spices
their strips of cloth to cocoon your body in
for its final transformation back to dust
their shoulders almost broken with grief,
heavy as the cross
that crushed the life from your flesh.
let me fall in step behind them.
let me take my place in that line
of broken hearts bearing a cross of grief together.
let me shoulder my share of the burden
and let me not rush
to the first fingers of dawn, frail and trembling,
reaching past a rolled-back stone
to empty space where your corpse should be –
no. let me linger in the moment when
your corpse still lies there
and anguish fractures the air
into splinters that cut the lungs.
this moment matters:
your brown body
with the breath pressed out
by the inexorable boot of Empire
and the moment that comes after
cannot ease this one.
it never has, and it never will, for
there are still bodies broken,
breathless, beaten down
by Empire’s brutality or else its apathy.
and you, with us to the last,
still lie among them – you hold them close
and share their final exhalation
be it in a hospital bed, the street, a cell.
so let me not sprint to sunrise
when your body can still be found
nestled with cold bodies in their graves.
blessed be the hands
that carry the spices and perfumes, water and cloth!
blessed, blessed be the throats
worn rough with sobs
yet refusing to be silenced,
broadcasting the crime lest some claim ignorance.
i’ll not dishonor them by racing past
to the future reunion of
form to dust, breath to body, lover to loved
before they’re ready.
keep watch! soak in! be present with them!
this moment is holy.
If you use this piece, please credit it to Avery Arden and link this website. I also invite you to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to let me know how you’re using it!
About this poem:
This was my prayer for Holy Saturday, 2020 –
in the shadow of pandemic
and from under the enduring boot of state violence and negligence:
Spirit, help us learn to linger in the shadow of the tomb,
so as not to abandon those who are not ready to look beyond it yet.
In this poem I lean on the promise of the Brief Statement of Faith:
“in life and in death, we belong to God.” And I draw from Black theologians like James Cone who argue that God is Black, that Jesus Christ is executed again wherever human beings are lynched or tortured. This poem is written in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement.