And after the day was over,
I told my friend Marie this story:

He was a young man and it was finally April.
A piano player played in Washington Square Park.
The young man walked along with the older man.
Daffodil buds unbuckled their gold
in the prosperous dirt beds wherever the two men looked.
Green applause stirred in the trees.
A woman on the street called out to the older man:
“Beautiful man, you, beautiful man …”
The two knew each other
and this coincidence made a bright light.
She spent her days raising doves and squirrels.
How did she support herself?
She observed the two together
and respected the fragility of the moment
as the angel does in Fra Angelico’s Annunciation.

The young man came to visit the city.
He said he had written in his diary about the older man,
had thought about him since they had lunch the week before,
a lunch the young man suggested.
He gave the older man a CD, all love songs.
The older man had been alone long enough to be reflective.
In the Anglo-Catholic churches that Sunday
deacons would chant the story of Lazarus from the Gospel of John:

Those who believe in me will live, even though they die.

The young man said to the older man:
“When did you come out?”
They walked through the park. With deliberation,
the older man said: “I could kiss you.”
Somewhere, doves settled on the ledges of the woman’s shoulders.
Silence surrounded the men as they went back to a brownstone
and lay on a high four-poster bed.

Before them a painting of a Roman city,
intricate as a symphony, that could have contained them.
Light grew long in the window and across the painting’s canvas.
The older man said: “Do you feel like you could kiss me?”
The young man responded,
speaking in a voice that lacked drama,
a voice both kind and bright, and said: “Not now.”
The deacons practiced their chanting:

Those who live and believe in me will never die.

Time pressed on the older man.
His passion collapsed.
Things would go unexplored.
The two men felt the folly of the moment.
The young man lingered with nonchalance,
a cruelty that belongs to youth.
Deacons took out their pencils and underlined certain words:

Mary arrived where Jesus was, and as soon as she saw him, she fell at his feet.  
“Lord,” she said, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

They went to dinner.
A Chinese restaurant on Sixth Avenue.
One they had not planned on.
Another friend of the older man joined them,
a woman who was writing a play with many characters.
She promised to take the young man to Grand Central,
for the young man had never been to the city before.
Suddenly, before they ordered their meal,
through the phosphorescent window
now expanding like a poem,
filling with a throng earnest to go home,
two more men appeared, both middle-aged,
whom the older man knew.
Was it possible he had not seen them in twenty years?
They came to the glass like fish in an aquarium.
What were their names?
Into the restaurant and poem, they came.
One had been married to a woman, and had had a child,
and he did remember the child’s name.
In the sacristies, deacons continued their chanting,
going down a third on the fourth syllable
from the end of every sentence:

He cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus come out!”

The table was full now.
Joy grew in the dark as it had in Jerusalem
two thousand years ago. Silverware glinted.
People opened the caves of their mouths,
laughed so their gold and silver fillings shone,
raised their arms like circuit breakers,
everyone connected by the pleasures of the ordinary life.
(O, the voltage of wants and needs contained in that city!)
Everyone spoke over each other, told jokes.
The waitress recorded everyone’s order, distracted.
The two new men announced they were married:
proudly, they showed their rings.
Then it was time for the young man to depart.
The doves must have been sleeping by then.
Everyone stood. The dark street shone with light.
Electricity and stars! Fire, bolts, shards, beams,
shafts, glints, shimmers, matches, cigarettes, sparks!
The deacons were lousy with gospels,
leaving them open all over the city.

“We were free,” I said to Marie, “and I was happy.
It didn’t matter about the young man.”
There was no more time to hate ourselves.
Many had already died and some had been kept from dying.
We spoke of her brother, John,
and we spoke of my cousin, John, both now long gone.
It was our time now.
Over the phone, I could hear her daughter
asking for dinner in the background,
the daughter that had come to her late in life, a gift.
The Gospel of John was right:
the world holds so much life.
There are not enough books to record it all.
I kissed the young man on his cheek, very lightly.

Jesus said to them: “Unbind him, and let him go.”

We each went our separate ways
following where we were being led.
Marie said: “Write it down, just as it happened.”

Permission required for reprinting, reproducing, or other uses.

Spencer Reece , currently serving as a chaplain in Honduras, is the author of The Clerk's Tale and the forthcoming The Road to Emmaus, both collections of his poetry.


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