Friday, April 6, 2012

A Good Friday poem for you: "Nicodemus Below the Cross: A Votive Ivory"

"Nicodemus Below the Cross: A Votive Ivory" by Philip Metres

Because the dead grow so heavy, as if
OOOOwanting the earth
below them, and because we cannot stand
)))))))))the sight of them,

their gravity, we leave the gravesite even
))))))))before the hole
is filled with dirt. You refuse to leave
))))))))your dead father.

From the silence of our car, we look at you,
))))))))sobbing. No sounds
reach us. Your face wild with rage. You hold
))))))))your own body,

leaden, armed, your fingers rub beneath your eyes,
))))))))as if to wear away
what lay before us. In the votive,
))))))))it’s so easy

to mistake Nicodemus for the crucifier,
))))))))his hammer poised
over Christ’s ivory wrists, his face blurred
))))))))with fear. His hand

will strike the nail away, hold the body until
))))))))blood runs its course,
then lay it down. In the votive, the last flecks
))))))))of olive, dun, and red

—the artist’s paints—river the veins
))))))))of the deepest cuts
only. No thorns of gold, no gem-encrusted
))))))))cross, no tesserae-

shattered image of a god. Just a body
))))))))cradling a body
carved in elephant’s tusk, small enough
))))))))to carry. An ancestry

of hands worrying, worrying the ivory
))))))))features smooth.

(first published in America, then in TO SEE THE EARTH)

1 comment:

Maureen said...

A gorgeous, moving poem.