Pamela Davis: "About Suffering"




on Titian’s Entombment of Christ, oil on canvas

Look at the poor man, pallid body splayed

in a sling. Head lolling, ordinary as kill hauled back from the hunt,

Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea red-faced carrying the weight.

Eyes upcast, John ransacks heaven as if God need explain. 


At painting’s far edge, the two Marys fuse into a frieze 

of grief. Magdalene’s loosed hair uncoils like snakes. She holds mother 

back from son, the Virgin’s knucklebones tight in a tent of prayer.


Christ’s arms dangle uselessly as ragman scraps. Black clouds

scumble the horizon like a thumb shutting the day


down into the tomb


where we cannot go. Why these ghastly colors? Robes drab as blood 

dried on stone? Why did the hand that left us blue harmonies, 

the pierced gold of Annunciation, paint this death in banal tones?


We want to believe the old story. Old master, if this is glory,

what are we to make of our common mourning?


Pamela Davis's first book of poems, Lunette (2015), received the ABZ Poetry Prize with a Foreword by Gregory Orr, the judge who selected it.