The Voice of Love
Ann Walters

The women are crying again.

That is to be expected. The women are always crying, always gnashing their teeth, looking for any excuse to let down their hair and tear at the roots.

Lazarus groans and turns over but he knows he'll never get back to sleep now. What day is it? Even with his eyes shut he can tell that it's midafternoon, the day sliding down into evening and his presence expected in the household. There are servants to oversee, accounts to manage, the evening meal at which he will preside, telling his story once more.

The women are crying and still Lazarus can hear the man's voice through their wails, telling him to rise and come forth. It's a good voice, kind and gentle but commanding. As much as Lazarus wants to rest, he has no choice.

The women are crying again and only he can silence them.

If the man were his brother, how much simpler it would be. His sister Mary is so needy, clinging to him as if she fears he will evaporate. Martha, the other sister, takes it personally when he is slow to awaken. She falls into hysterics at the sight of linen.

If the man were his brother, Lazarus could finally take leave of his sisters, placing them in another's care. He is weary of the drama, the insistent accounting of faith. The women are crying and he is tired.

Lazarus knows of only one place where true rest can be attained.

The women are crying again, shaking Lazarus out of his dreams and back into a world where, thirty years later, he is still four days behind. He rises from the bed and listens to Martha scolding Mary for her carelessness with the lamp. Does she want to burn the place down? Through her sobs, Mary chides Martha in return, but Lazarus puts his hands over his ears until their voices are mere murmurs and he hears only his own heartbeat. Even that is too much.

He touches the scrap of shroud that is always with him and thinks about those four days of peace, the voice of love that will not let him rest.

The women are crying.

Lazarus arises and goes out.

Ann Walters' poetry has been published in many journals, both in the U.S. and abroad. Recent shorts have appeared in Quarter after Eight and Juked.

To link to this story directly:

Detail on main page from painting by Juan de Flandes: "The Raising of Lazurus" (1515); Oil on panel

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