The National Catholic Review

So easy to mistake him for the crucifier,
his hammer poised
over Christ’s ivory wrists, his face wild
with fear. So easy
to forget Nicodemus. His hand will strike
the nail away,
hold the body until the blood runs its course,
then lay it down.
Because the dead grow so heavy, as if
wanting 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. Your arms hold
your own body
growing heavy, your fingers rub beneath
your eyes, as if
to wear away what lay before us. In the votive,
the last flecks
of olive, dun, and redthe artist’s paints
river the veins
of the deepest cuts only. In the votive,
no thorns of gold,
no gem-encrusted cross, no tesserae-
shattered image
of a god. Just a body held by another
body carved in
an elephant’s tusk, small enough to hold.
An ancestry
of hands worrying, worrying the ivory
features smooth.

Philip Metres is a poet, translator and assistant professor of English at John Carroll University, whose work has appeared in numerous journals and in Best American Poetry. His books include: Primer for Non-Native Speakers, Catalogue of Comedic Novelties: Selected Poems of Lev Rubinstein and A Kindred Orphanhood: Selected Poems of Sergey Gandlevsky.

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