Paul Mariani poem: ‘Pieta'
New Year’s Eve, a party at my brother’s.
Hats, favors, the whole shebang, as we waited
for one world to die into another.
And still it took three martinis before
she could bring herself to say it. How
the body of her grown son lay alone there
in the ward, just skin & bone, the nurses
masked & huddled in the doorway, afraid
to cross over into a world no one seemed
to understand. This was a dozen years ago,
you have to understand, before the thing
her boy had had become a household word.
Consider Martha. Consider Lazarus four days gone.
If only you’d been here, she says, if only
you’d been here. And no one now to comfort her,
no one except this priest, she says, an old
friend who’d stood beside them through the dark
night of it all, a bull-like man, skin black
as the black he wore, the only one who seemed
willing to walk across death’s threshold into
that room. And now, she says, when the death
was over, to see him lift her son, light as a baby
with the changes death had wrought, and cradle him
like that, then sing him on his way, a cross
between a lullaby & blues, mmm hmmm, while
the nurses, still not understanding what they saw,
stayed outside and watched them from the door.
— PAUL MARIANI