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.”