Dry Dust?

Bruegel Christ and woman

From dust and to dust, but what in between?
A dusty-dry worthiness or a brief moment of animation?

The dust between Galilee and Jerusalem speaks:

The dust of the road: a disciple’s on-the-move home;

The dust with which he opened the blind man’s eyes: a healing balm;

The dust where he stooped down to write; a word of utter mercy;

The dust washed clean from disciples’ feet: a loving attention;

The dust of another, final path: a cross-bearing, pain-stationed way;

The dust of a now-vacant tomb disturbed in the dark of night: a luminous emptiness;

The dust of the way to Emmaus: a path beyond what we took to be final.

Our foreheads bear the memory of triumph’s emberred residue,
but that cruciform smear
is now the soil
in which a grain of seed once died
and then gave grain, bread, body.


Pieter Brueghel the Elder’s Christ and the Woman taken in Adultery of 1565 is in the collection of the Courtauld Institute. Image from Wikipedia Commons

One Thing Necessary


He used to come here often.
I think he liked to be here, relaxing, sharing, being fed.
There was one time I remember so clearly;
he was telling us a story,
though if truth be told it was my sister doing most of the listening –
I was busy with the food as usual.
It was a story of that secret time,
his time in the desert,
the time he doesn’t talk about much,
but which seems to have been more important than any of us knows.
If I caught him right,
he said that in that stark place,
in that place where there is nowhere to hide
from oneself, from the insistent chatter inside, from God,
he found that only one thing was necessary.
That one thing was a kind of silence so powerful,
a stillness so complete,
a simplicity so transforming,
a heart-listening so pure
that it seemed that one could almost hear God.
He said that my sister had found that one necessary thing,
and since then I have begun to find it too.
Of course, he doesn’t come here any more.
They took him away from us
so horribly.
And yet, when I find that necessary silence,
it is as if he is there.

Vermeer’s Christ in the House of Martha and Mary, c1654/5, is in the collection of the National Gallery in Edinburgh. Image from Wikipedia Commons