The Common Good
April 2006

Good Friday in Manhattan

by Wanda Fries | April 2006

The poor are with you always—

The poor are with you always—

Curled against a retaining wall
in the privacy of his own vomit the prophet sleeps
breathes in and out the stench of broken flesh—

Across the street at a coffee shop
in a seat near the window
another sweats in a black wool coat—
blind behind black glasses, refusing alms
he asks if Sunday is Easter—
the wounds of his awful loneliness break
into red blossoms against the dark—

Near the rim of chaos where the towers stood
disguised as a street preacher, St. John the Divine
tenders his prophecy his flute song of mourning
surrenders Haldol to the hope of transfiguration
O amazing, crazy grace—

Like traveling pilgrims we pause at each station—
hope for enlightenment along a seamless way—
a Rasta drummer beats sacred time near the subway,
the golden Buddha gazes preoccupied
from the dashboard of a cab—

This Friday before the Resurrection
all over Manhattan we dodge prophets—
broken shoes stuffed with black garbage bags
ill-shod for the road to Damascus
they careen toward us
from blind corners and subway tunnels—
babbling prophecies in tongues
they bless us and curse us
For the day is surely coming,
says the Lord—

We look—
mouths open, O holy,
their prayers fly like white doves
from the prison house of longing—

We finger the bus map, the guidebook, the ticket
pray Allah, lala, Jesus, Giuliani,
consider the image of Elvis
at the Hard Rock Café—

We wait the light changes
don’t walk to walk

Behind us—
in spite of our turning—
saints and madmen and angels
they swarm to the light
brushing the flames
with their sanctified wings—

Wanda Fries lives in Somerset, Kentucky.

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