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Thursday, 23 April 2009

The White Crucifixion

Marc Chagall's White Crucifixion

Little Jewish son of god,
but born of woman, jilted,
hijacked by the Gentiles, gently
coming home.
Around him roars the mighty mechanism, man.

God-like anisoptera
spreading wide his wings,
becomes a millpond centre
for a whirlpool world of hate.
Around him hums the mighty mechanism, man.

Small-time god and King of Jews
insisting on his right to truth,
to act the whole of what He is,
to be the undivided one.
Around him runs the mighty mechanism, man.

Disregarded Jewish god,
feels the thorns and nakedness,
wears them as a travesty -
and in the wearing, clothes again
the fickleness of faith.
Around him ticks the mighty mechanism, man.

Doubly-jilted Jewish god,
crucified, but no Good Friday,
shorn of all redemptive powers.
This is end-game, Armageddon,
Bergen-Belsen, Nagasaki,
Guernicas that yet may come.
Around him pinks the mighty mechanism, man.

Little upstart son of god,
conceived in sin as graven image,
who will answer to the Father?
Who will argue with the Torah?
Synagogues and scriptures burn
while he waits on Heaven or
whatever god will answer him
(whose arms were always spread this wide -
in welcome or in impotence?)
Around him stalls the mighty mechanism, man.

Little guilty Jewish god,
guilty of an ancient wisdom
and a spirit vastly mobile -
unacceptable to some.
Light from Heaven and the Torah,
colder than the bleakest ice age,
brings no credence or credentials
to the still-cold shouldered one.
Unlawful son of God the Father,
son that never could have been,
around him deeper mythic sources
sing Hosannas, change the scene.


A Cuban In London said...

'Doubly-jilted Jewish god,
crucified, but no Good Friday,
shorn of all redemptive powers.
This is end-game, Armageddon,
Bergen-Belsen, Nagasaki,
Guernicas that yet may come.
Around him pinks the mighty mechanism, man.'

This is one of those poems that stay with you in silence, putting its arm around your shoulder and asking you after a while: 'So?' And you answer: 'So, what? I'm still digesting it'.

The repetition of the last line bar the verb is haunting and lingers on in the air like the silence that follows the tolling of bells from a distant church.

Many thanks, Dave, many, many thanks.

Greetings from London.

Leatherdykeuk said...

Very powerful piece, Dave. You say things in this that i would hesitate to. Bravo!

Aniket said...

It has a very dark coldness to it. Each line makes its presence felt strongly. The last line repetition played its part quite well.

Liked it a lot.

SweetTalkingGuy.. said...

Hi Dave, this is Loaded! It deserves to be raed again and again and...

Stephen Dell'Aria said...

Great Dave. You are the Poet Laureate of the blogsphere. Reminds me in feel to some of the lyrics in Leonard Cohen's song, Suzanne. I hope that's a good comparison, although I find your words even more intense.

Anonymous said...

I'll need to read this a few times. I liked the subtle progression in the last line.

I'd also like to find a larger version of the painting. Wiki has told me that Chagall is Jewish but I need to understand the images more. I think your poem uses some of them but, as I said, it needs reading sveral times.

Derrick said...

Hi Dave,

Such rich imagery. I shall be reading this many times over!

willow said...

I adore this painting. It has so much going on, it was just begging for a poem, and you, my friend have done it justice. I am printing a hard copy to keep on my desk today. This is magnificient. Thank you.

Artist Unplugged said...

Strong poem.

carole said...

Dave, I still don't fully understand your poem, but it has unsettled me to such an extent that I've spent time I should be out in the garden writing a post on my Blogger blog.

Who is Jesus?Carole(watermaid)

Art Durkee said...

Have you read Chaim Potok's novel "My Name Is Asher Lev"? It's a first-person novel about an artist who grows up an Orthodox Jew but whose artistic vision is so insistent, he must paint anyway. The novel is partly about the cultural conflicts that result, as well as the narrator's own struggle. There are some conversations in the novel between the art student and his artist mentor that are deeply insightful into why we make art.

The novel culminates with the Orthodox Jew painting a Crucifixion scene. It's incredibly controversial, but it can't be ignored.

And then what do you do?

Anyway, it's a compelling read.

Fantastic Forrest said...


Very gutsy poem. As you know, I love the Chagall. Was your poem inspired by it, specifically, or did you just choose it to illustrate your work?

"...a millpond centre for a whirlpool world of hate." Yup. Way too much hate.

Cathy said...

This poem has pulled such emotion out of me. I'l have to reread it many times to settle my mind on how I feel about it.
Asher Lev is a good read. My eldest and I read it together a couple of years ago. We had wonderful discussions while reading it.

Starlene said...

Thank you Dave, for being the sort of man who sheds light on things shoved into dark closets of denial. The light may sting the eyes at first, but they adjust eventually. When they do...a new perspective is born.

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

Mighty mechanism. Indeed.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...


I am so glad you joined my followers list which led me to discover your incredible talent with words.

I had to read this piece slowy, carefully, not wanting to miss a single morsel.

Cecile/DreamCreateRepeat said...

I think if the man Jesus could see what has happened since his time on earth, he would weep.

Ronda Laveen said...

Provocative. Evocative. Stirs the heart of my divinity. Stirs the heart of my mechanistic DNA. Must let it steep a while and come back for another sip. Well done, my friend. Well done.

John Hayes said...

Excellent poem-- love the morphing refrain-- I tend to like that in general, but this is a really good example of the technique. The painting by Chagall looks like it's wonderful-- love his work.

Madame DeFarge said...

Wow. I will have to read this several times. Very powerful indeed. It's just great.

Dick said...

There's a wonderfully incantatory feel to this, Dave. It demands to be read out loud. A powerful and effective use of trochaic rhythms - unusual in contemporary verse.

Minny Blue said...

There seems to be a bell tolling all the way through this inspired poem. Whatever happens, whatever the truth, little Jewish son of God stands in the middle, as the mighty mechanism marches on.
This poem is a gift! Thank you...

Adrian LaRoque said...

Awesome Dave!

The lady in Red said...

wow, Dave, incredible, I will read again and again loudly.
Best wishes,

Cloudia said...

Aloha Poet Dave

sudharm baxi said...

You have put a lot into this Dave, so beautifully crafted.
The best thing was the invisible rhyming which i admire immensely, where the words actually don't rhyme but the thoughts, the ideas do.

You are a master at that Dave!!

Dave King said...

A Cuban in London I love and very much appreciate your first paragraph. Worthy of being in a poem itself. Come to think of it, I could say the same for the other paragraph. Much thanks.

Leatherdykeuk No without some misgivings, I might say.

Aniket Useful comment, much appreciated.

SweetTalkingGuy Actually, I keep reading it, just to make sure I've got it as I meant it!

Stephen Wow, I have just begun to think about a post on Leonard Cohen, so you may guess what a compliment that is! As for poet Laureate, almost you persuade me to apply for my sac! Thanks.

Watermaid yes, Chagall being Jewish is where it all begins. He insists on the Crucified Christ as being a crucified Jew. Thanks for your response.

Derrick Thanks for commenting, it does help greatly.

Willow Such a generous comment, I am overwhelmed. Thanks.

Artist Unplugged Thanks.

Carole I quite understand your consternation. I have been to your excellent post and agree with C.S. Lewis's assessment and his reasons for thinking that Jesus must be who he said He was, which I would argue is precisely what Chagall is saying. He is who he said he was and part of that is Jewish. That is the part that western iconography ignores or disputes. My comments relate, of course, to the picture and not to any scriptural teaching.

Art I confess that I have not read the novel, but I am obviously going to have to, thanks for the info relating to it. I have added it to my ever-growing list of books to beg, borrow or steal.

Fantastic Forrest I decided that it might be fun to do a series of poems on great works of art. I chose The White Crucifixion as my first one. It is a painting about which I had (and have) some unresolved issues, but which I admire intensely. Thank you for your greatly appreiated comment.

Cathy Guess that settles it. Yup, I have to read it! Thanks.

Starlene That is a much appreciated and fantastic comment. Thank you for it.

Pamela Terry and Edward Indeed!

The Things We Carried Welcome. That is a very generous comment. Thank you for it.

Cecil/DreamCreateRepeat I am absolutely certain of that. no doubts at all.

Ronda Thank you so much for that. Such encouragement is always welcome.

John I am almost sure it is the first poem I have written that has a refrain. I can't think of another, though it hadn't occurred to me until I read your comment. Interesting... thanks for that.

Madame de Farge My appreciation for such a positive response. Very welcome.

Dick Yes, I must admit that I do not often use Trochaic rhythm. Perhaps I should experiment more... Thanks once more.

Minny Blue WelcomeI like the reference to a bell tolling. It is apt, but was not intended. Thanks for an interesting response

Adrian Don't know how to respond to that! but thanks.

Lady in Red Many thanks and mine to you.

Cloudia Lovely comment. thanks.

Sudharm An interesting comment. Something to think about. Thanks.

Conda V. Douglas said...

Yes, I'm coming late to the comments, but wanted to say I love your use of the language in this poem, Dave. Especially "God-like anisoptera" and "Doubly-jilted Jewish god".

Plus, illustration by Chagall, excellent, fits just right.

Lucas said...

The stanza that ends "around him pinks the mighty mechanism man" really affected me. There are deep themes running throughout the poem and all them connect with Jesus Chagal and the twentieth century debacle. The rhythm and meter you have chosen is a tricky one to maintain. You have handled it well. Very good poem, Dave!

Dave King said...

CondaCome as late as you like, as long as you come! Seriously, though, thanks for that comment. I actually started with the painting. The poem was intended as a commentary on it. I realised afterwards what I should have realised earlier, that that needed to have been spelled out, as it is germane to some of the thoughts.

LucasMany thanks for the feedback. Your comments are much appreciated.

Patrice said...

Even a non-religious person like my self can feel tempestuous and heightened emotion and angst reading this.

Very powerful poem, Dave. It really works well with the painting.

Dave King said...

PatriceI very much appreciate your comment and thank you for it.

Lynda Lehmann said...

Extremely powerful statement, Dave, made of many well-turned phrases and well-placed repetition.

This poems speaks of a wider perspective on religion, war and the human condition than some readers may be comfortable with.

To me, a work such as this is heroic, for confronting the demons of "the mighty mechanism, man."

Lynda Lehmann said...

PS - I will have to look up the meaning of "anisoptera"!

Duluk said...

Very good. "whirlpool world of hate" - I like that. Endings are difficult; you nailed this one.