At the moment during Holy Week when Jesus redefined
two common objects from the dinner table,
we were cracking open fortunes at a Chinese restaurant down the street,
your daughter and her friend on the manic side of mid-teen life,
full of laughter and the secret language of confidantes,
while we three elders—you, me, the friend’s mother—absent-
mindedly twirled Asian aphorisms around arthritic fingers.
None of the fortunes spoke of nails.
When on that evening Jesus gathered up his befuddled eleven
for a stroll through the streets of the old city to the eastern gate,
seeking the road to the foot of Olivet, the path to that famous garden,
we were sorting out whose house the girls might sleep over,
there being no chance they should face this night alone.
The mother of the friend pushed hard
to bring them to her home, saying she
hadn’t seen her daughter all week, though you
could say the same. It was the hour for finding solace
in whatever remnants of family could be arranged.
When he brought them to Gethsemane to support him as he prayed,
at that dark hour you’d already released her, and you and I
returned home to talk about your difficult week at work
and keep watch with each other through the night.
At about the hour the crowd entered the Garden, carrying swords and torches,
your son, so soon college-bound, suddenly arrived
in the full array of high school fashion,
mumbling sidekick in tow, here to pick up something and be off. Tomorrow
he and his girlfriend board a train to Boston to check out schools,
returning sometime Sunday. You pressed for more details: when Sunday?
You know it’s Easter, you reminded him.
But he wasn’t thinking of Easter tonight, nor did the disciples
who ran up the dark slopes in selfish fear, abandoning their messiah.
At least your son did not betray you with a kiss, nor did he run away naked,
like the mysterious young man in Mark’s Gospel.
It was a workday; the weather uncertain.
You had a meeting; I had inspections to make.
In Jerusalem that day, Jesus endured a whirlwind of trials,
before the Sanhedrin, before Herod, before Pilate.
Passover was coming at sundown. That was the deadline.
I’d stopped at the hardware store, running an errand,
and had my hands in a drawer full of nails
when I realized with a shudder it was the hour
the nails were pounded into his flesh.
I threw my silver coins on the counter and hastily withdrew.
The skies darkened but no curtain I know of
was torn today. I found it difficult to pray
with that paper bag of nails on the backseat of my car.
My son’s gone to his mother’s in Virginia; my daughter
drives down here from Syracuse later today
to go with me to church in the morning. This is a day of waiting.
I have taxes to do, and straightening up around the house.
The body was brought to the tomb and left there,
vague prophecies not clearly understood. You prefer
the Easter Vigil service, you tell me on the phone,
but I’m expecting my daughter at that hour. We can’t agree
on the details. You have things to do, too, you say.
It’s best to keep busy when you’re waiting.
I’m not a morning person. Let the other disciples get up early.
But I don’t dispute the resurrection, or the account of the women
who ran back from the place where the body had been taken.
If it were a fiction of the time, a more convincing narrative
would feature the men making the crucial discovery.
But the story’s subsidiary details strike me as authentic. I have my hands
on the knot of my tie, ignoring the clock
for a second, until my daughter calls up to me.
The church will be more crowded than was that garden at that hour.
You and your daughter have made other plans. We’ll try for lunch later.
The miracle prompting the occasion remains embedded in my soul,
but whatever prayers it may inspire will have to be postponed.
© 2013 Al Hudgins