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from The Book of Hours, 1440

The painter has left a whole corner empty, squeezed
the painting into the top half of a diagonal. How
gently they lay His body, His face crooked

from pain. Nicodemus lifts Him below the knees.
Joseph of Arimathea fixing the shoulders
to rest, his chin holding Christ’s haloed

head steady. Four sainted women form a back
row; they look on with sharp black pupils
to make sure that this is the tomb, this

the body, this the Lord. Blood runs bright red
from his wrists’ nail-wounds, one hand on Mary
Magdalene’s shoulder: this act the first

intransitive verb to bear the sign that flew
across continent and sea, brought to so many
hope, death to so many.

The Image archive is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.

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