Martyrdom of the Ten Thousand, Albrecht Dürer

Invert: you were a pilgrim, pawing at the sacred parts
Of every thing, the one in every plural, resigned
To a common sacredness. The nakedness of waiting
For the reduction of all general symbols into one
Private messiah. Parceling out piety like meager food,
The tasteless sacrament no sauce can sweeten.
This is what I think of the pilgrims, when I see them
Hunched over in the subway, the park, the stair;
The apse in every corner, the pew in every chair.
Subtraction is still an action of transformation,
Of modifying, that sheepish squirming; that race
To martyrdom, which is self-confirming.
It rained holy water, or whiskey, and the zealots
And alcoholics were quenched together; this
Catechism or dialectic, this slow disaster
Of communication. The moral vantage point
Affords a prohibitive view of the possible world
With its possible goodnesses, its occasions for repair.
Evil is that which negates, absolutely, unequivocally.
I believe in it. When I see it, its negation is imminent,
Plausible, insidious in the absolute. I don’t despair.
I avoid it. I sit on the subway, employed in myself,
Divining an algorithm or shortcut past prayer.
The conversion process from water to wine
Is the same as that from shed into shrine:
The conversion process from martyr to man
Follows that calloused ordaining hand
In its arc from forehead to tilted chin,
To formal sin, skin or touch, sin’s dispatcher,
To heart and home and hinterland,
And can any unholy watery tear
Mar or martyr the celestial plan—
And can every fleshy lottery scratcher
Be just some redacted holyman?