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The Lazarus Collector


ISSUE:  Spring 2012

It wasn’t until I went to the leper colony to buy their coins
that anyone knew about the poem carved in the tree.

Each minted dime in my country touches hundreds
of piggy banks, collection plates, lemonade stands in summer.

Every bill replaces a lost tooth, buys hamburgers and lap dances.
I wanted money with an intimate history, a piece of copper

traded from one known hand to the next. I should’ve kept quiet
when I saw ants raiding an eggshell beneath a kapok tree.

I needed to know if what they were eating was dead or living,
and that’s when I found it—my skin so wet I could barely breathe—

the love I’d come here searching for. Back in the city I tried
to recite what I’d read. I turned to the man next to me at the bar

and said, When I die, my stillborn children will crawl out of their graves
and inherit my doubt,
but I couldn’t remember what came next.

In church I sang hymns and tested my heart for awe. Dear God,
I waited and was chosen
. I hadn’t needed a savior until I’d seen a miracle.

I returned to the colony, but the lepers nailed a red shirt over
the words and charged to see them. I had no money but the coins

I’d purchased and couldn’t decide if I wanted the mystery
or the words that belonged to the mystery. Surely they’d only hide

something we couldn’t live without, some prayer God didn’t know
or he would have found us by now. I died for you and it was worth it.

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