Votive Ivory on Display: Nicodemus Below the Cross

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.

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.

Advertisement
Advertisement

Don't miss the best from America

Sign up for our Newsletter to get the Jesuit perspective on news, faith and culture.

The latest from america

A boy presents a hat to Pope Francis upon his arrival at the international airport in Trujillo, Peru, Jan. 20. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)
“Just as the apostles faced the storm on the sea, you had to face the brunt of ‘El Niño costero.’”
Gerard O’ConnellJanuary 20, 2018
Pope Francis greets the crowd before celebrating Mass at the Maquehue Airport near Temuco, Chile, Jan. 17. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)
“Pope Francis’ statements...were a source of great pain for survivors of sexual abuse,” Cardinal O’Malley said in a statement released Jan. 20.
Michael J. O’LoughlinJanuary 20, 2018
 Pope Francis and Peruvian President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski stand outside the presidential palace in Lima, Peru, Jan.19.(CNS photo//Mariana Bazo, Reuters)
“The degradation of the environment...cannot be separated from the moral degradation of our communities.”
Gerard O’ConnellJanuary 20, 2018
The U.S. bishops had an unusually busy year issuing positive and negative statements about the new president, but some hoped for more decisive action against his policies.
Michael J. O’LoughlinJanuary 19, 2018