El Greco: Espolio

written by

« Reload image

The carpenter is intent on the pressure of his hand

on the awl and the trick of pinpointing his strengththrough the awl to the wood which is toughHe has no effort to spare for despoilingsor to worry if he'll be cut in on the diceHis skill is vital to the scene and the safety of the stateAnyone can perform the indignities It's his hard armsand craft that hold the eyes of the convict's womenThere is the problem of getting the holes exact(in the middle of this elbowing crowd)and deep enough to hold the spikesafter they've sunk through those bared feetand inadequate wrists he knows are waiting behind him

He doesn't sense perhaps that one of the handsis held in a curious gesture over him --giving or asking forgiveness? --but he'd scarcely take time to be puzzled by posesCriminals come in all sorts as anyone knows who makes crossesare as mad or sane as those who decide on their killingsOur one at least has been quiet so farthough they say he talked himself into this troublea carpenter's son who got notions of preaching

Well heres a carpenter's son who'll have carpenter sonsGod willing and build what's wanted temples or tablesmangers or crosses and shape them decentlyworking alone in that firm and profound abstractionwhich blots out the bawling of rag-snatchersTo construct with hands knee-weight braced thighkeeps the back turned from death

But it's too late now for the other carpenter's boyto return to this peace before the nails are hammered

© Earle Birney