Chapter 16
A Community of Tennessee Writers, Readers & Passersby


FROM THE CHAPTER 16 ARCHIVE: This poem originally appeared on October 18, 2013.


TJ Jarrett is a writer and software developer in Nashville. Her recent work has been published or is forthcoming in African American Review, Boston Review, Beloit Poetry Journal, Boxcar Poetry Review, Callaloo, Southern Poetry Anthology, and others. Her debut collection, Ain’t No Grave has just been released from New Issues Press. A second collection, Zion, winner of the Crab Orchard Open Competition 2013, will be published by Southern Illinois University Press in the fall of 2014.


Imagine his surprise, disoriented
in the dark and damp of the tomb—

all alone, all at once. Hadn’t he quit
the flesh, wearied of Martha’s nagging,

don’t bother yourself Lazarus, don’t strain
yourself Lazarus, and his sister Mary’s

muffled cries? Then the knock. Then the
calling of his name. Did he turn his back

to the sound at first, cry out: It’s early yet.
Say: Not now. Ask: Why me? Then the

voice of the weeping boy-god who
summoned him. Could he not unburden

himself of that skinsack with the ribboned
muslin that bound him? Did the light from the

opened door blind? When he staggered from the tomb,
did he first hear the wind’s bloated sigh above the land;

or see the shapes of his sisters barreling toward him
blurred in his sight, or hear the flat-footed cadence

of their approach? How could any one sense measure
their jubilee? Did he rejoice with them or was three days

long enough to miss any one thing, even the earth?
How does a body flooded with sweet air compare

to heaven? How small now this earth, how tinny
its birdsong. How sloven the tree’s corporeal array.