These have emerged from reading St John's Gospel Chapter 11, a story which really captures the imagination and confronts us deeply, personally about our sense of mortality and the very meaning of life itself. Lazarus receives life after life. What kind of experience can that have been? How different might it be from life after death? How can we know? We're all way out of our depths here. In the dark face of unknowing we have only our loving imagination to guide us, and the hope that we shall be no less 'human' than we are now.
The first poem changes the setting to NYC. The most recent is set 'there and then'.
And Lazarus came forth …
Oh, it’s you again, said the strange man
In the dark suit with the bowler hat
as we met halfway on the subway stairs
I thought you’d gone for good –
all the way to your native soil, in fact
I didn’t think we’d see you here again.
Still, he said, raising his hat politely, as he passed on
I hope you have a good stay, and this time
keep clear of deadly ailments!
Whereupon, he disappeared into the land
of rushing trains below, leaving me bewildered
as I emerged into the light of day
Funny now I thought and who was that I wonder
never seen him in my life before, and yet
he seemed to know me through and through.
Was it someone from before I’d forgotten?
Had he confused me with someone else
Who simply looked like me?
Such things are common in our overcrowded cities
where faces seem to merge in the anonymous crowd.
Or are they? I began to wonder
as people stared with curious amazement
Eyeing me like a midget or a side-show freak.
breeze flapping the sheet that was my unfamiliar garb.
Who did the man in the dark suit take me for?
He looked to me, with bowler hat and black bag
like the quiet undertaker’s man, sent to measure you
when you’re finally cold and stopped growing.
Funny he should speak to me –
Such strange light in his eyes.
Standing there being unbound
of sickly spices
cold and damp
stiffness in his back and limbs
blinking against the morning sun
wondering why he's trussed
like a sausage in a cloth
thinking to himself:
How did I get here
the last thing I remember
was lying in bed
the darkness creeping over me
the beat of my heart ebbing away
oh yes, and then this voice
what did it say - out?
Or was it - shout?
Or was it a shout
so strong it made me move out
into light that wasn't there before
And why are all those people
staring at me wide eyed
who are they talking to
is this really me
Someone tell me please.
Oh look, there's Jesus
he was coming over to supper
when I was in bed, wasn't he
Jesus have you any idea
what's been going on
why are there tears in your eyes?