dirt and ash adorn my head,
a dark covering of filth gritty on my scalp.
thick, tangled hairs scratch my cheek like coarse threads,
hands hang guiltily at my sides.
soiled, broken nails like swords
left streaks of red down my arms
as I rent the clothe of my tunic.
tight fists like clubs that beat purple, black and green onto my chest.
iron fingers that ripped clumps of hair from roots set deep in my skull.
eyes, swollen from the blow of wind and grief,
see little but tan ground or grey sky;
everything out of focus and unremarkable.
my body is parched:
muscles shriveled and limp,
skin cracked like the wadis that line every valley.
even the marrow seems sucked out of my cavernous bones.
i think i should waste away but the gushing never stops;
(perhaps another of his miracles).
tears tear a wide rift down the plains of my face,
a mark of my homeland etched into a thousand layers of skin.
some slide into my mouth creating a paste with the dust that always coats my tongue,
today made thick and repugnant by the yeast of bitterness.
lips posed like the spout of a clay jar,
a feature delicate but useful,
tremulously pouring forth watery wails birthed deep in my bowels.
my voice joins the chorus of anguish made by the many women of this illegitimate tribe:
a babe in the arms of her grandmother, neither able to be pacified,
a wife and a prostitute standing as sisters,
an adulteress supporting the weight of one already weakened by years of bleeding,
a samaritan’s tears soaking a galilean’s breast,
one who was possessed by demons now doubled by a stronger affliction,
some rich, many poor —
all unpaid mourners weeping a sweet harmony of sorrow.
a single flute accompanies our morning song;
its high pitch slices through the humid air,
giving tragedy a proper dissonance.
the mingled cries produce a slow rhythm;
our bodies sway to its haunting pulse.
feet drag slowly forward in steps so heavy
they could cause Jerusalem to go the way of Jericho.
we follow the dusty wake of the bier,
a simple pallet that bears the dead form of our master,
torn from a cross.
some of our brothers carry him, an excruciating weight.
many in our procession grow faint.
some stumble to their knees,
tripped by grief or fatigue.
hands reach down to drag the fallen to aching, splintered feet.
we must reach the tomb.
the carnivorous sun,
unrelenting even when death is done,
waits to consume his flesh.
we will give him shade in death;
we could not provide as much in life.
the room is sealed but we hunker just beyond the slab.
every limb, feature, voice twisted and marred in the expression of woe.
our bleating continues;
perhaps it will never cease for suffering was never so dark as now,
just the first of innumerable days of mourning.