by Anne-Sophie Olsen
We are pleased to feature the newly-published chapbook by Anne-Sophie Olsen. Anne-Sophie’s poetry has previously appeared in Veritas Journal, and we are thrilled to highlight a poem from her new collection, Benediction for a Naturalist, available for purchase at www.annesophieolsen.com.
“Good Friday: Veronica Considers the Veil”
I fear this face, whose replica I keep:
the face of a god who worked death’s field alone,
tilled each furrow by nail, watered the soil
with blood, then hung from rough-hewn planks like
a scarecrow: despised, dishonorable.
Beneath him, the congregation chortled like crows
which descend to a field where there is some interest;
or they were scattered like seeds, and the wind picking up.
I myself could only stay so long,
having already been detained when the he-god’s
fingers bloodied my veil to his bruised face
(which, had it not been gashed and turning green
would have looked mild, a regular young man’s face);
after, I stood amid the shouts and the dust,
holding the image his skin had left behind,
feeling abandoned, unable to square this feeling
with what lay ahead, which was not my death.
Then, for an hour or so, I snuck through the crowd,
followed along to the rocky, bare cliff’s edge
where the soldiers nailed his groans on high.
Then he died. Apart from a strange spectacle
(a shadow eclipsing the eye of the afternoon sun),
all was still. All were disappointed
and stared at the silent body leprous with blood.
The expected miracle did not occur.
So the crowds dispersed to their normal ways
of living: eating, sleeping, lying together,
making their own replicas. Life went on;
life goes on. So goes the saying.
But I returned to my home and my children troubled,
smuggling under my dress the he-god’s face
and sat at the hearth and stewpot. How to explain
that absurd encounter to my family
who by dusk will have heard the rumors entire —
that the he-god lied, stirred up the youth,
claimed obscenely to possess God’s power
over life and death. Should I then witness
to how his skin left a life of itself
on my veil? How to translate
this gaze, which woke in me an emptiness
I fear cannot be filled?
The faces of my little ones hover in the steam,
their mouths agape with hunger at my ladle,
and yes, it makes me glad to see them soothed.
Nothing now may soothe me. I break the bread,
offer a chunk to each hand. Let them enjoy it.
Let them enjoy it, tonight, before I spoil it
all with my tale of terror and wonderment.
Tomorrow, all our grain will taste like ash.
Anne-Sophie Olsen lives in the Twin Cities, MN. You can find more of her work at www.annesophieolsen.com.
header image: Photograph of author’s chapbook “Benediction for a Naturalist.”