The Graves Empty, The Graves Full

At the name “Sea of Galilee”
            I lift up my eyes to the television
illuminating the find of a Neanderthal burial,
            fourteen adults and a child,

shells strewn across her ribs, red ochre
            staining her tiny enduring bones,
who thus lay when Herod owned this air,
            Gabriel, near these broken cages,

settling on Mary with his proposition,
            someone creating wine, adding up bread
and fish, gliding across the thin surface
            of belief, promising he’d die, promising

he wouldn’t. Trying to discover our grandmother,
            a cousin sent probes into the Wisconsin earth
which stopped at nothing, her grave empty
as miracle, its stones rolled away, so when

we visit the family at their small granite addresses,
            they may not be home, only a few
surviving death in bogs, a vault of ice,
            dry hidden caves dark as Scripture.

Millennia before Eden, they picked up and came
            here, stout and powerful, brains the size
of Peter’s, Paul’s, but heavy browed, muscular,
            nothing like the painting in my church,

Jesus, soft girlish hair, white gown, lifting
            a lantern in some dark woods,
knocking on the door, we understood,
to our stony hearts. It is a matter

of accepting they never entered the kingdom,
who were not our ancestors but lived with them
“in harmony,” the television reports, who also
started fire, cared for the sick and lame,


the first to bury their dead, scatter shells
            on a child’s breast, to daub
her bones the color of old blood. Oh men
            of Galilee, why stand ye looking up?

a wind asked of disciples, and I look down,
            trying to imagine the grandmother
I don’t know, the grandchildren I do,
            in remembrance of this very girl,

the familiar bread of her flesh, the wine
            pulsing through her veins; dust in our hearts,
the world broken around us, constantly
            resurrected, we all live the same life.

(First appeared in Northeast, 2006)