The monk stipples the page with convoluted trails
of lead toasted rust red, brick red, the color
first used for rubric and for miniature.
Three thousand tiny dots prick the initials,
as if the text itself were pierced with nails,
red edging each green, black, or yellow letter
to embolden the story of Christ’s dolor
and his murder, his earthborn travails.
Again the monk licks the brush-tip; in his head
each red welt stabs sharper than a splinter.
Taking the paint on his tongue, he tastes the blood,
but, pocked Christ, can’t feel your toxins enter—
O pox of love, O sacrament of lead,
O Word of Life with death framed at the center.
The Image archive is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.