Sisyphus Blues

~ Resurrection: from Anglo-Norman 
resurrectiun, from Old French resurrection 
(French: résurrection), from late Latin

resurrectionem (accusative of resurrectiō), 
from Latin resurgō (“I rise again”), 
from re- (“again”), + surgō (“I rise”) 


What does he think of the hard
labor he's been assigned— pushing
that boulder uphill, knowing 
gravity wins out every time 
and he'll have to go back
to square one? 

             A stone
that size is what they used
in those days to seal 
the burial cave out of which
Lazarus, four days dead,
was summoned— perhaps
to keep out tomb raiders, wild
animals that might be lured 
by the mulch-vinegar
smell of decomposing 

                   flesh. But 
in Sebastiano del Piombo's painting,
the only echo of stone dwells in
grey arches spanning the river;
or along the banks where some towns-
people are washing 
           endless loads of laundry.  

There isn't any slab, only the hard,
sculptural body of the recently dead: 
         Christ with no halo gesturing
toward that miracle torquing out of white
winding cloths. 

             And 373 years later, in Van Gogh's
depiction of the same story, an ashen Lazarus  
emerges out of quicksand or the stony 
ground, the vibrant stripes and green 
of his sisters' dresses and their coral
and black hair pulsing beneath 
the gold-stroked, restorative sun.
            Eternity is time we're told
we can't imagine. But Sisyphus came
close, tricking the lord of the underworld
with his own handcuffs: while under house
arrest, Death couldn't carry out 
his sentence— Imagine the maimed 

getting up from bloody pews in churches
where bombs have just gone off, showing up
for work or school on Monday; and whales
with bales of plastic in their bellies
forced to writhe 
               indefinitely on the beach.

But time catches up, as it has a habit
of doing: thus the stone that Sisyphus
must keep rolling. And yet, with every fall 
that's an undoing, he comes back—
He always comes back.


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