The Poem

The word came from Bethany,
“Lord, he whom you love is ill.”

I have learned,
though your ways are—
these three years on—
often veiled to me,
impenetrable as a crypt,
yet to watch, to notice,
to store up your words
and moves and deeds.

I saw the shadow
cross your face;
heard the subtle catch
as you spoke:
“This affliction
is not for death,
but glory.”

Now, as I stand
and watch you hang,
I remember.

After two days time,
we turned, and came again to Judea.
As we walked, you told us,
“He sleeps, but I will wake him.”
But I still—
these three years on—
cannot see in the dark.

Though blind, yet I watch…
Though deaf, I listen still…

Once more, and always once more,
begin the slow unfolding.


When Martha,
clothed in her grief,
cried out:
“Lord, If you had been here,
my brother would not have died,”
your reply fell on ears
full up with the tears and blood
of years,
wasted in the wilderness
of our father’s stony hearts…
of our mother’s salt-pillar necks.
Though I clung to your words,
forbid myself to lose a single syllable,
I did not hear.

And when you wept with Mary,
I watched your body heave
with sobs -
reckless -
watched you spit with anger
for the death of a friend.
I kept these bitter pictures,
and my heart was moved,
but I did not see.

When you called the dead man’s name,
and he stumbled forth,
hands and feet yet bound,
eyes, ears, and mouth
still captive to his burial clothes,
I felt a kinship,
as if he was my brother,
as if it was my body, my blood
called forth from sepulchral inertia
by a loud voice,
somehow, and at once,
familiar and foreign.

Still, you hang,
as the impossible approaches.
Still, I watch and listen;
seeing, not perceiving,
hearing, not understanding.

“Lord, If you had been here,
my brother would not have died,”
they said.
But today Lazarus lives
by the word of your mouth,
and you suffer
in silent acquiescence
as Death asserts his reign
once more.

All is lost.

In a moment,
all is plunged into darkness;
the anguished groans, derisive jeers,
the wails of loss…
all recede
into silence.

And within this tomblike stillness,
I see…

Lazarus, my brother,
emerges from the pitch,
but he is many,
thousands and tens of thousands,
their burial clothes torn like a veil,
revealing eyes
of fire and wonder.

A voice,
familiar and foreign, speaks a single word,
and from their ears
blood and water flow,
as from a pierced side.

A thrum and whirl of sound
erupts from everywhere
and nowhere;
strange music: a victory march,
lullaby and reveille.
My brothers and I, enveloped,
are lifted up by love and song,
and with a cloud of voices,
we sing.

Up and in, yet beyond our reach,
a pillar of cloud flashes and turns,
a thunderhead with no beginning and no end.
I know,
I have ever known,
that which conceals itself within;
that which I
was made to gaze upon
and love
and be made whole.

And from the cloud,
your voice, strong and clear,
speaks, as it spoke to Martha:
“I am the Resurrection and the Life”

The vision departs.
I, bound once more to dirt,
look up,
as you, my God,
give up your Spirit.

Oh, terrible beauty.
May it never and always be.

Jesus, the Christ,
help my unbelief.


About the Artist

S. Benjamin Holsteen has been on a mission to invade your hearts and minds since he first picked up a guitar back in the 7th grade. In that time he’s written in genres ranging from shoot-for-the-rafters Arena Rock to Ambient Electronica to spare, acoustic, Singer/Songwriter Folk, as well as occasionally dabbling in poetry. He’s currently sketching songs for a new, as-yet-unamed project with hopes to continue to explore new musical territories while building on his 25 years as a writer. In addition to writing, Ben leads music each week at Holy Trinity Anglican Church in Colorado Springs where he serves as the Minister of Music and Church Programs, and enjoys the constant adventure of being husband to Anna and papa to Esther and Jude.

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