Transfiguration (audio only)
And there appeared to them Elijah and Moses and they were talking to Jesus. Mark 9:2
They were talking to him about resurrection, about law, about the suffering ahead. They were talking as if to remind him who he was and who they were. He was not Like his three friends watching a little way off, not like the crowd At the foot of the hill. A gray-green thunderhead massed from the sea And God spoke from it and said he was his. They were talking About how the body, broken or burned, could live again, remade. Only the fiery text of the thunderhead could explain it. And they were talking About pain and the need for judgement and how he would make himself A law of pain, both its spirit and its letter in his own flesh, and then break it, That is, transcend it. His clothes flared like magnesium, as they talked.
When we brought our mother to him, we said "Lord, she falls down the stairs. She cannot hold her water. In the afternoon she forgets the morning." And he said, "All things are possible to those who believe. Shave her head, Insert a silicone tube inside her skull, and run it under her scalp, Down her neck, and over her collarbone, and lead it into her stomach." And we did and saw that she no longer stumbled or wet herself. She could remember the morning until the evening came. And we went our way, Rejoicing as much as we could, for we had worried many years.
They were talking to him about heaven, how all forms there were luciform, How the leather girdle and the matted hair, how the lice coursing the skin And the skin skinned alive, blaze with perfection, the vibrance of light. And they were talking about the complexities of blood and lymph, Each component crowding the vessels, the body and the antibody, And they were talking about the lamp burning in the skull's niche, The eyes drinking light from within and light from without, And how simple it is to see the future, if you looked at it like the past, And how the present belonged to the flesh and its density and darkness And was hard to talk about. Before and after were easier. They talked about light.
A man came to him who said he had been blind since his wedding day And had never seen his wife under the veil or the children she had given him. And the Lord said, "Tell me about your parents." And the man talked A long time, remembering how his mother cut his father's meat at dinner, And how at night their voices crept along his bedroom ceiling, like-- But he could not say what they were like. And in the morning, everything began to tick And ticked all day as if. . . . Now, he remembered! And suddenly his sight came back and blinded him, like a flashbulb.
They were talking to him about law and how lawgiving should be Like rainfall, a light rain falling all morning and mixing with dew-- A rain the passes through the spiderweb and penetrates the dirt clod Without melting it, a persistent, suffusing shower, soaking clothes, Making sweatshirts heavier, wool stink, and finding every hair's root on the scalp. And that is when you hurled judgement into the crowd and watched them Spook like cattle, reached in and stirred the turmoil faster, scarier. And they were saying that, to save the best, many must be punished, Including the best. And no one was exempt, as they explained it, Not themselves, not him, or anyone he loved, anyone who loved him.
Take anyone and plant a change inside them that they feel And send them to an authority to assess that feeling. When they are told That for them alone there waits a suffering in accordance with the laws Of their condition, from which they may recover or may not, Then they know the vortex on the mountaintop, the inside of the unspeakable, The speechlessness before the voices begin talking to them, Talking to prepare them, arm them and disarm them, until the end. And if anybody's looking, they will seem transfigured.
I want to believe that he talked back to them, his radiant companions, And I want to believe he said too much was being asked and too much promised. I want to believe that that was why he shone in the eyes of his friends, The witnesses looking on, because he spoke for them, because he loved them And was embarrassed to learn how he and they were going to suffer. I want to believe he resisted at that moment, when he appeared glorified, Because he could not reconcile the contradictions and suspected That love had a finite span and was merely the comfort of the lost. I know he must have acceded to his duty, but I want to believe He was transfigured by resistance, as he listened, and they talked.
From Questions for Ecclesiastes published by Story Line Press, 1997. Copyright © 1997 by Mark Jarman. All rights reserved. Used with permission.
Poet Mark Jarman won the 1998 Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize and has authored many collections of poetry.
Date Published: 1997-01-01
Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/transfiguration-audio-only