The Grand Miracle

for John Holohan

Jesus wound up with his body nailed to a tree—
a torment he practically begged for,   
or at least did nothing to stop. Pilate

watched the crowd go thumbs down   
and weary, signed the order.   
So centurions laid Jesus flat

on a long beam, arms run along the crosspiece.   
In each palm a long spike was centered,   
a stone chosen to drive it. (Skin

tears; the bones start to split.)   
Once the cross got propped up,   
the body hung heavy, a carcass—

in carne, the Latin poets say, in meat.   
(—The breastbone a ship’s prow . . .)   
At the end the man cried out

as men cry. (Tears that fill the eyes   
grow dark drop and by drop: One   
cries out.) On the third day,

the stone rolled back, to reveal   
no corpse. History is rife
with such hoaxes. (Look at Herodotus.)

As to whether he multiplied
loaves and fishes, that’s common enough.   
Poke seed-corn in a hole and see if more corn

doesn’t grow. Two fish in a pond   
make more fishes. The altar of reason
supports such extravagance. (I don’t even know

how electricity works, but put trust   
in light switches.) And the prospect   
of love cheers me up, as gospel.

That some creator might strap on
an animal mask to travel our path between birth   
and ignominious death—now that

makes me less lonely. And the rising up
at the end into glory—the white circle of bread   
on the meat of each tongue that God

might enter us. For 2000-near years   
my tribe has lined up at various altars,
so dumbly I open this mouth for bread and song.

Mary Karr, “The Grand Miracle” from Viper Rum. Copyright © 1998 by Mary Karr. Reprinted with the permission of New Directions Publishing Corporation.
Source: Viper Rum (New Directions Publishing Corporation, 1998)
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