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