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Breath & Shadow

Spring 2016 - Vol. 13, Issue 2


written by

Ada Hoffmann

He thought himself blinded, at first,

until the grave-clothes tore away and his eyes

blinked cold and gritty in the noon light.

He could make out faces, which meant nothing

at first, not with the wailings of unpardoned souls

so fresh in his ears. He mumbled a greeting,

tried to understand why his sisters wept for joy

when he was dead, when all men were clay.

What was joy? His flesh, perhaps, looked whole,

but it seethed underneath,

waiting to rot from the bones and return

to its sleep. He shambled

forward, tried to speak, and only moaned.

His sisters clucked

over his weak and shaking limbs. Martha rushed

to the market for this herb and that, for wine

to calm the stomach that no longer held

much down but dry bread. Mary watched,

eyes calm, as if eyes could stand at the judgement

with this generation and condemn it.

If he had faith, like her, like the crowds

of lepers and bleeding women before him,

he would have been well in an instant. Or

maybe not. Maybe his old, strange friend,

this vagrant rabble-rouser and speaker in riddles, had at last

found a wound even he could not cure. The dead

were never meant to walk with the living-

even the skeptic priests who poked at him,

arguing what sort of lie it could be, knew this much.

And the slow strengthening, the growing unmarked spaces

on the page between his bad days:

maybe this, too, was illusion.



In later years, when the sound of birdsong

had returned, and the colors of leaves,

and sunlight, he would remember not the first

blind stumbling out of the tomb, the first aching thuds

of a reborn heart. Though that was the story

his sisters told, when memory had breath enough

to tell its tale and laugh. By then he had a family

again, a bishop’s cap, a table full of congregants

and friends, and he was not the only one

reborn. The world had changed, and changed again,

while he clawed his way out of his pain.

But he alone remembered this:

the lost months learning to walk again in darkness.

The straining shamble of a body marked for life

but yet to find it, and the choice to go on.

When, Yes, Lord, I believe, was not a mumble side by side

with the obedient congregation, nor a ticket to some other world,

but only the ache of a once-dead muscle contracting

to move one foot further forward, a little,

leading the other. And again.

And again.

Ada Hoffmann is an autistic computer scientist from Canada. Her poetry has appeared in Strange Horizons, Stone Telling, Goblin Fruit, and , Imaginarium 4: The Best Canadian Speculative Writing. Her poetry has also been nominated for the Rhysling Award. You can find her online at or @xasymptote.

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