It is the single most studied artifact in human history, Since arriving in Turin in 1578, the Shroud has only been displayed a few times each century.
My brother on business in Milan took a train
to see it. He told our blind mother it renewed
his faith—seeing what she does not need to,
reading the Braille of her beads each night.
Prostate cancer, like our father. No scientific
dispute. He recites the numb prayer of numbers.
I, who have no faith, buy us both a round of it.
Science and religion both play for keeps
despite different scoring methods.
They study the hell out of it for proof
of heaven. If seeing is believing
then I believe in everything I’ve seen.
Prostate. Prostrate. In worship or humility.
If we have souls, who will conduct
their biopsies? Will we have autopsies
instead? Can we ever find anything
unless we throw off our shrouds
and rise to look over the shoulder
of those with science on their side
and stand there—wherever—and say
hmmmm? And make a judgment call
based on the faith of geography
and the grief of mathematics.
My brother’s voice elides into a slight
trembling sigh. He stood in an endless line
to see it. If we had a map of the soul
I would be crumbling it into a ball.
I’m hanging on to his voice over the phone.
Like our mother with her beads, I cannot
see him, over there studying for the miracle.