Descending Theology: The Crucifixion

by Mary Karr

To be crucified is first to lie down 
on a shaved tree, and then to have oafs stretch you out 
on a crossbar as if for flight, then thick spikes
      fix you into place.

Once the cross pops up and the pole stob 
sinks vertically in an earth hole perhaps 
at an awkward list, what then can you blame for hurt
      but your own self’s burden?

You’re not the figurehead on a ship. You’re not 
flying anywhere, and no one’s coming to hug you. 
You hang like that, a sack of flesh with the hard
      trinity of nails holding you into place.

Thus hung, your ribcage struggles up 
to breathe until you suffocate, give up the ghost. 
If God permits this, one wonders how 
      this twirling earth

manages to navigate the gravities and star tugs. 
Or if some less than loving watcher 
watches us scuttle across the boneyard greens
      under which worms

seethe and the front jaws of beetles 
eventually clasp toward the flesh of every beloved. 
The man on the cross under massed thunderheads feels
      his soul leak away,

then surge. Some windy authority lures him higher 
till an unseen tear in the sky’s membrane is rent, 
and he’s streaming light, snatched back, drawn close,
      so all loneliness ends.

From the far star points of his pinned extremities,
cold inched in—black ice and squid ink—
till the hung flesh was empty.
Lonely in that void even for pain,
he missed his splintered feet,
the human stare buried in his face.
He ached for two hands made of meat
he could reach to the end of.
In the corpse’s core, the stone fist
of his heart began to bang
on the stiff chest’s door, and breath spilled
back into that battered shape. Now

it’s your limbs he comes to fill, as warm water
shatters at birth, rivering every way.