two slats of painted, varnished wood
casts a shadow crucifix
darker than a threat. Despite
the agony, the figure looks
caught in the rictus of dance.
The tattered locks dangle like moss,
the loincloth’s tourniquet-tight,
the downcast expression has shut
against this world and the next.
How much distance do we need
to impose on the Renaissance
to escape it? The varnish gleams
with confidence. Surely it’s not
the original finish the artist
applied with quiet satisfaction.
Surely some atheist intervention
polished this object to appear
rich enough to deny itself.
But the shadow doesn’t lie.
Guided by naked intuition,
the curator placed this crucifix
so the light would cast this comment
in deep exclamatory mode.
Even doubters like me can’t doubt
the extra dimension imposed
by the gray border of this ultra
black shadow. Although this painted
Jesus can’t look behind him
to note the bottomless dark,
he must feel slightly comforted
by confounding the illusion
of two-dimensional painting
from which in the secular world
no vital essence escapes.