“After man survives hanging, Iran plans a second attempt”

     News Item

The eyes are full of illusions, this we know,
nearsighted to dragons in the distance,
farsighted to angels at our elbow.
No, the eyes cannot be trusted, yet
I watched this man die for that is how
I feed my children. As you drive your bus,
hammer your nails, as you shuffle the clouds
of each day’s routine so I peer through my hood,
place another over each man’s head, bring
the knot of the noose to the side of his neck
and whisper: Go now to a better world.
And so it is and so it was, the lever pulled,
the floor disappearing under feet, the body,
a lifetime, dropping until the rope said Stop!
Unmasking myself, I took him down,
man to man. I took what the soul discards
and carried it to the room to be cleansed
and made holy for the earth.
What happened next is still a dream.
I laid him down, removed the hood,
but as I turned away a sound slid through
his throat like the hissing of a snake.
The curtains of his eyes inched open.
pupils pulsing on the pools of blood.
I screamed, stood back. His lungs clawed
for air. He gasped and coughed and spit.
Brother, he choked, am I alive or dead?
Stunned, I did not answer presently,
for in that moment I feared that if he were
the man alive then I must be the dead.
Brother, he asked, are you an angel?
I sat him up and brought him water.
though I knew he could not swallow.
I placed wet cloths on the raw peel
of his neck. He stared deep into my eyes
like a child newly born into the world.
And I wept as if he were my child.
wept at the grace of God, wept
knowing the state and knowing his fate.
We’ve met before, he said as I held
him in my arms. Yes, I answered.
Yes, brother, in another lifetime.

(first published in The Atlanta Review)