Guanajuato: The Lazarus Conceit

In Guanajuato, Mexico, the bodies of people whose loved ones could not afford the grave tax were exhumed and hung on pegs. They lined a white hall, withered, brown, and mummified from the dry sand in which they were buried. Like all mummies, they seemed almost alive.

 

-The pain of rebirth is surely greater

than the pain of death -the soul driven and drawn,

both, from the darkness into the shrouded dark

of a rejuvenating body, the whole

body a mad cancer turning back decay.

And the body must shudder as the spirit

reenters, not like the gentle death-shudder -

the inrush of emptiness as the spirit

slips away must be easy, as water fills

a footprint in a bog. But then in reverse -

the emptiness must be forced out: it does not

go willingly: it has no good where to go.

 

They are no men or women, as monks and

nuns one day become only sexless saints -

all are thin, bald, shrouded in their cassocks,

limbs drawn in solemn benedictory

death, legs dangling in near-ascension,

arrested with submission between states -

These abbots and sisters in their raisin unlife

have become new without Lazarus' agony.

 

The church once held sacred the human bones of saints

as though a residue of righteousness remained~

but none have been reborn since Lazarus and Christ.

 

G.S. Morris