The Vigil

Anne Babson

Could I report you stood sentry at dawn,
waiting for the cemetery sun to take
grief and reopen it with morning
glories on vines around you? This bony

Rabbi who had awakened you was sleeping
forever. His mother had devoured her lip
while you dressed His wounds so hurriedly,
absurdly—He could not even feel the

sting of unguent rubbed into His bloodied feet!
She had cradled His head without blinking while
you twisted His limbs in the Egyptian
cotton. When you covered His face, she had

finally turned away to weep. But hadn’t
you forbidden yourself to cry then? Loss
numbed, gnarled your face—a grimacing Greek
mask that was discarded by some touring

tragedians. His body had weighed less than
a termite-hollowed log when you had hustled
it past the drunk centurions, still
guarding those still dying, and had found a

cave where you could stash Him before the weekend.
Your Pesach table had called you, but you could
not stomach a feast. You had uttered
prayers mechanically. The thanksgiving

for freedom had stuck in your throat with the dry
matzo; who under Rome was free? As the group
recalled the seven plagues sent upon
Egypt, you had remembered the seven

devils He had cast out of you—The chosen
starvation, the sleeplessness, the listlessness,
the weeping alone, the silence in
the crowd, the stabbing of your own wrists, and

the doubt of every last one of your own
senses. When He had plucked them out of you, He
gave you speech where no women whispered.
While your own cousins turned from you, the

others had flocked to your good news—but perhaps
it was just that a woman’s voice on the steps
of the synagogue surprised them, rang
so unfamiliar. When the guards marched for

Him, all the others had scurried into the
alleys and taverns, but you had followed as
closely as they would allow. You had
seen it all. When you tried to stop them from

hammering the spikes into His flesh, they had
knocked you down with the butt of their spears. Why had
His gaze commanded you to stand back?
Where else was there for a woman who speaks

Aloud to go but to the grave? Could I
report you stood sentry at dawn, waiting for the
cemetery sun to take grief and
reopen it with morning glories

on vines around you? The garden twittered as
the simmering orange light warmed the water
escaping down your cheeks. The shadows
grew shorter as the sun floated higher.

Earth had forgotten His death. Life danced around
you. The Gardener shuffled near the vines, in
a robe of Egyptian cotton to
tend the flowers He had made blossom. You

turned your face from Him, ashamed of the excess
of your sorrow before a stranger, until
He called you by your name. Yes, that is
What I will report to the others. Come.


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