Christ at Emmaus
One of them recoils
One buries his head in the Lord’s broad lap.
What would you do
if, mid-meal, light suddenly broke
from a body rather like your own
and a stranger suddenly became
in very flesh the friend you mourned?
You would be shocked, no doubt — horror,
amazement, joy, dismay competing,
no words available for the occasion.
You might embrace him, weeping, or grasp instead at some shred
of rationality while your pupils
contracted and your heart beat in your throat.
It might be harder than you think
to give up three days’ mourning,
memories already being edited and arranged.
The story had seemed complete.
Having a tale to tell, you might already
have found a way to tell it whole,
rich with mystery, rounded and
resonant with meaning.
You might have been ready
to go back home, tired of all that wandering,
ready to sit at the lakeside and take up
the nets again, writing a little, keeping
your counsel, sharing a parable now and then
with those who had seen him once,
who remembered the picnic on the hillside —
all that bread and fish.
You would have had to give up yet again
what you thought you had a right to claim.
Turns out he meant it — the promise
you’d already begun to turn to metaphor.
Here in dazzling flesh, leaning back
to let himself be seen, he leaves them no choice
but to lay aside sweet sorrow and cancel all their plans
for the aftermath.
from Drawn to the Light: Poems on Rembrandt’s Religious Paintings by Marilyn Chandler McEntyre.