What I got from the National Gallery


It is terrible to look at,
in the manner of all things
composed of an undeniable genius.

Look at the way the flesh of the dangling hands
is gouged and gray-gangrenous
around the pucker left by nails,
the way those thick, rounded thorns
penetrate the slit skin of the forehead,
fitting as smoothly as a sword in a scabbard,
raising it up.

The face was taken from a corpse,
a legitimate dead man-
not hard to find in Italy, then.

I wondered, for a moment,
if the artist had mutilated real flesh-
slamming the crown down, scraping bone
to get just that look.

So tell me why the Putti are smiling,
their sly cherubic faces turned out
from the body they are supposed to be raising.

Their colour is too good for this work,
expression too overtly sexual
beneath their light curls.

They thrust their blushed buttocks from the frame,
their long, thorn-like genitalia indecently covered,
framing their burden.

The only things erect about this corpse
are the nipples, round as beryl globes
and fringed with dark hairs
that I have never seen on this body.

Dark hairs scatter the chest,
a feminine curling
towards the curved pubic bone
where the painting cuts off,
before I can tell if what was removed
has risen or not.

The sensuality doesn’t bother me.
God made the flesh for feeling,
He has flooded me like that,
through points and round swellings,
through injurious love.
I am not disgusted by sincerity.

But I hate what this painting
is sincerely about.

The slit in his ribs,
like my own slit, though higher up,
has ripe labial folds.
It was made to receive spears;
it is not the product of a thrust.

His breasts are like mine were
at the dawn-edge of puberty,
when the nipples rose before the globes.

The angels do not exist, there,
to raise Him up.
Crivelli has caught them, ungirt,
in the moment of lowering.

Their looks, to a man, might be inviting.
Their eager smiles say, ‘See what we do to Him,
down on the earth.”


About Bethany W Pope

Bethany W Pope was named by the Huffington Post as ‘one of the five Expat poets to watch in 2016’. Nicholas Lezard, writing for The Guardian, described her latest collection as 'poetry as salvation'.....'This harrowing collection drawn from a youth spent in an orphanage delights in language as a place of private escape.' Bethany has won many literary awards and published several collections of poetry. Her first novel, Masque, was published by Seren in 2016. Her second novel, Ordinary Lives: The Ballad of John and Mary, was published in 2018. Follow her on Twitter @BethanyWPope

Posted on November 7, 2012, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: