Called crimson, called vermilion—“little worm”
in both the Persian and the Latin, red
eggs for the carmine dye, the insect’s brood
crushed stillborn from her dried body, aswarm
in a bath of oak ash lye and alum to form
the pigment the Germans called Saint John’s blood—
the saint who picked brittle locusts for food,
whose blood became the germ of a crimson storm.
Christ of the pierced thorax and worm-red cloak,
I read your death was once for all, but it’s not true:
your kings and bishops command a book,
a beheading, blood for blood, the perfect hue;
thus I, the worm, the Baptist, and the scarlet oak
see all things on God’s earth must die for you.
The Image archive is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.