The Dazzling Whiteness (Lent Poems 26)

This poem belongs earlier in the collection. It is a flashback to Peter, James and John’s climb to the top of the mountain, where they saw Jesus transfigured, in glory, standing with Moses and Elijah. I wonder if Peter would have thought to this back moment somewhere after Jesus’ arrest; I wonder how the memory would have seen to him then, not yet really understanding who Jesus was or what he was doing. Would it have seemed a taunting reminder of what could have been but seemed to have failed?

The Dazzling Whiteness
The others had stayed below while we climbed,
John with a steady assurance and James
Somewhere not too far behind, the Lord at the front
Setting the pace and me, frustrated, eyes on the summit
And the space between me and the peak somehow taunting.
At the top, short of breath, where the ground seemed to catch
My eye more than the sky did, I saw a glimmer of light
From above, and looking up to the source, there I found
The Lord, all ablaze, his face like the sun and his clothes:
They were whiter than all the world’s bleach
Could hope ever to make them, and there by his side
Two faces of age and dignity, men like two trees
Of great wisdom and strength; their faces somehow
Like two faces I knew. They talked with Lord, there
Up on the mountain, and spoke there such words
Of knowledge I knew they were both surely prophets of old,
The two greatest yet. And, the Lord like the brightest
Star of the heavens, Moses, Elijah standing beside him,
There where our radiant God shone so loud,
And the wonder and glory of us all being there,
It seemed like the time and the place to all stop
And make, as at Sinai, tents for our meeting there.
Yet the sound of my voice, my eager suggestion,
Bounced off the sky and landed amid
The vacuum of sound in the wind all around us
While a voice from the clouds captured and drowned us:
This is my Son, whom I love. Listen well to Him.
What a sound! And the glory of God filled our souls.
Then, gone the voice and the men who’d stood with us; gone,
And the sound of the mountain resounded in silence.
The Lord motioned down the mountain to walk,
And so walk down we did, the solemnity of
The moment and then the Lord’s order to
Speak not of this moment, until he would rise
Up from the dead, consumed all our minds,
As each step we took downwards was a fight with the rocks
And the pain of the silence and loss of that glory,
And, climbing, we wondered and wondered and argued
What it might mean to rise from the dead.

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