Aaron, It Makes No Difference, and Veronica

by Patrick T. Reardon


Aaron was his brother's mouthpiece.
Moses stuttered.

It was only with Aaron at his side
that Moses, at the risk of sharp death,
could order Pharaoh to let go the Hebrews.

Don't think Ben Hur.
Picture my sweet brother David
who, innocent that he was,
wrestled with his tongue and only to a draw.

David's death was ragged.
The Pharaohs of our world—
who seemed saints to those outside the family—
had harder hearts than the one Moses and Aaron faced down.

I did not stay at David's side
but fled as far from Egypt as I could.

I left him alone before the throne.
He could get no words out of his mouth
to give him protection.
He was a lamb I left at the altar.

No angel came to stay his hand
when the weight of the Pharaohs,
dead but still alive in our sinews,
grew to be too much
and he had no words
to ask help
and he dragged himself
out the back door to
his death.

On the night of All Soul’s Day.
I place your photograph, David,
on the table of the dead.

What can I say?
I can’t puzzle words together to find you.
I survive.

You do not. You are an emptiness deep in me,
next to the emptiness those Pharaohs
carved out sixty-six years ago before you were born.

I fled.   You stayed.   You died.

It makes no difference

Patrick crouches
deeper inside his chest shell
as he watches the disciplined boy
kneeling on the marble floor
of the chapel aisle between the seminarian pews
during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass
and so weightily fearful is the boy that
sweat plops in splash pools beside his knees.

Patrick sweats, too,
heavily, though not to such excess, and,
like Richard, is fearful and laden with his
raw acned existence here in this farm fields school
and a prisoner of the mystery of his insides.

In his hidden warehouse,
stampeding cattle are the pulse and rumble and roar
that cannot be contained and, yet, must be
held back behind the Temple curtain of his face.

Outside McDonald's this morning,
a hooded man cleaning the glass
wobbles on an uneven ladder. 


Veronica is not a name
given to many baby
girls today. She wiped
the face of Jesus at
the side of the packed-
stone street the
condemned man
trudged with his cross
rubbing his shoulder
raw on his way to the
hill. He left behind the
image of his face on
the cloth, like the
Shroud of Turin but
no need for x-rays.
Did she hang it on
the wall of her home?
Store it in a drawer?
It was certainly an
odd miracle in
which no cure was
executed. Did Veronica
and Simon the cross
carrier meet later to
trade notes or maybe
just to look into each
other's stunned eyes
with no words to say—
then, interrupted in their
silent communion
by the angry cry of
a hungry baby, they
turn to see the
mother raise to
the infant mouth
her breast.