This is no oasis of peace,
Mantegna’s dead Christ, the body
foreshortened, the head
enlarged, more like a wounded
dwarf’s, the focus
on the shrouded genitals:
behold the man. The ribcage looms
as it must have heaved to breathe
on the cross, fighting
gravity, the lips stiff and taut
with suffering unrelieved
even on the slab,
Mary, John, and Magdalene looking on
with all the helplessness
of those who love
and can do nothing. A painting
Mantegna saved to grace his coffin.
Something about the model’s
mouth, the angle of the head, the chin.
I’d not expected this resemblance
to my son. The accident
stole mobility, his mind. Fifteen months
of cruel, extravagant hope.
I was sleeping when he died.