Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, CALVARY-TALK, by GORDON BOTTOMLEY



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CALVARY-TALK, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Three black crosses against the sky
Last Line: Who thought their god was dead.
Subject(s): Crucifixion; Jesus Christ - Crucifixion


THREE black crosses against the sky;
A sun like a bubble of blood;
A cawing rook with lifted wings
Poised on the middle rood.

A moaning corpse on either hand,
A silent Corpse between
Sagging with sharp protruding knees
And chin on bosom lean.

The rabble had gone. The Westered sun
Dropped like a dead man's head,
Who raising himself for a last look
Slips back upon the bed.

Three men sat there, and as they talked
By a watch-fire newly lit
Their monstrous shadows flung on the beam
Hid the limp Corpse on it.

(They crouched and crept, they reeled and leapt,
Then sank in a smoky flare
That lit the shapeless hanging mouth
And lank dark-dripping hair.)

One was the man who stretched the limbs
With the clutch of a long-dreamed sin,
One was the man who held the nails
While the third man knocked them in.

"At noon we tossed for the Preacher's shirt
Sodden with blood and sweat:
I sold the sorry rag to a woman
Whose face was drawn and wet.

"Now some men thieve and some men stab
And know what the end will be,
So whether they sing or twist or curse
Upon the sapless tree
As the big nails crush the little bones
Does not matter to me.

"They lie and cheat, they take their chance,
They know the loser pays;
So whether they die with prayers and sobs
Or the brag of the brazen face,
I glory in God as the points go through,
A minister of grace.

"But to nail a rough-tongued prophet up,
A harmless drone and clean --
You might have wiped the shame from my face
As I drove the cold nails in;
'Twas only work for priests or their wives,
For men too spiteful and mean."

The hammer-man spat; the nail-man donned
His share of Jesus' clothing;
The limb-man cried "'Twas the surgeons' hate, --
He healed their sick, and for nothing."

Up the hill and over the hill,
With cloths on a bier spread,
The pitiful mourners came again
Who thought their God was dead.





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