It’s like a quattrocento painting,
the episode unknown,
some fragment from a vanished gospel.
A white-robed man is borne towards us
shoulder-high by seven more
dressed in what they wore that morning
expecting nothing worse than hunger.
The painter’s frame is dense with gesture,
one arm curved against the sky,
another raised in shock or protest.
Their faces are the timeless ones
old masters always use,
each one with its silent shout –
though one, we see, has tied
a sweatshirt round his nose and mouth
to clarify his breathing.
The colours are composed and careful –
blue shirt to the bottom right,
the sweatshirt’s high and sudden yellow,
that whiteness in the sky.
Top right there’s an edge of stone
ragged like some Roman ruin.
The man in white’s a deposition,
slanted from an unseen cross,
except he’s bald – and still alive.
The face is calm, and half-forgiving.
His feet are pale and bare.
The white he wears suggests the sacred
as does the crimson down his chest,
a vestment with some extra meaning,
until we see, at second glance,
the richness in that redness is
the sunlight in his blood.