by Mary Karr
Sure we’re trained to his suffering, sure
the nine-inch nails, and so forth.
And the cross raised up invoked
the body’s weight so each wound tore,
and from his abdomen a length of gut
dangled down, longing towards earth.
He was a god, after all.
An eternal light swarmed in his rib cage
no less strong than the weaving nebulae that haul
this dirt-speck planet through its course.
Surely his flesh mattered less somehow, less
than yours to you. He hung against steel rods
with his whole being, and though the pain
was very pure, he only cried out once.
All that was writ down. But what if his flesh
felt more than ours, knew each breath
was a gift, and thus saw
beyond each instant into all others.
So a morsel of bread conjured up
the undulating field of wheat from whence it came,
and the farmer’s back muscles
growing specific under this shirt
and the sad, resigned pace of the mule
whose opinion no one sought.
Think of all we don’t see
in an instant. Cage that in one skull.
If Christ saw in each
pair of terrified eyes he met
every creature’s gauzy soul
then he must have looked down from that bare hill
and watched the tapestry teem
till that poor carcass he borrowed
wept tears of real blood before they
unhooked it and oiled it and bound it
round with linen and hid it under a stone,
to rise again or not, I can only hope.
“Christ’s Passion” by Mary Karr, Viper Rum, New Directions, 1998
“Jesus is nailed to the cross” by Anna Kocher. See the rest of her work here.