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Easter on the Charles

January 17, 2012

by Richard Wile

In faded flannel shirt and frayed cargo pants,
the man curls against the Weeks Footbridge
catching the sun like a bedraggled cat.
He stands occasionally, stretches, circles,
before sinking again onto a stained sleeping bag,
while I with $10 cigar look past him
at joggers seeking endorphin blessings,
couples reverently strolling hand in hand,
parents rejoicing in their children,
and twelve ducks meditating on the river.
Above us, Harvard’s golden cathedral domes
glow in wind-driven clouds.
This morning, our priest lit a bonfire, and declared Lent over.
I held my candle, sang “Hail Thee, Festival Day”
“Now the Green Blade Riseth,” “Jesus Christ is Risen Today,”
prayed to childhood’s Casper-the-Friendly Deity,
and walked to the Charles Hotel for bacon,
eggs, hash browns, croissants, and coffee.


A black cumulus settles like a boulder
over the sun. Wind pounds wet nails into skin.
Runners and families scud away
like the ghosts of those I’ve loved and lost.
The river churns and ducks bow their heads.
My cigar’s a cold turd. I turtle into my jacket.
The man by the Weeks Footbridge
entombs himself in the mummy bag.
Earlier, I proclaimed, “The Lord is risen indeed!”
but like the women in Mark’s Gospel
who fled the tomb in terror,
I’m afraid to believe it, really,
for fear of resurrection’s undermining
my understanding of the world, my security,
even the security of an emptiness
I carry like a cross.


Meanwhile, the cloud is rolled away,
the wind shifts to the south,
and the man by the bridge rises.
From his tattered trousers, he takes bread,
breaks it, and casts it on the water.
One by one, the ducks come forth
to share his Eucharist.

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Richard Wile has published essays in numerous magazines and journals, most recently in the online magazine Solstice. He received his MFA from the University of Southern Maine’s Stonecoast Creative Writing Program.

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