CHRIST'S DEATH MASK
We have Joseph of Arimathaea to thank for it.
After he scrubbed the dirt and vinegar off the body
and sealed the gashes with wax, he worked
oil into the stiffening limbs and loosened the purple
clots thick across the torso. When he came
to the face, he peeled the lids open again
but the eyes were still no better than marble.
He laid a thin insulating film over the bony
features and built the mold up, layer by layer.
The straight line of the lips hardened even more
for the split in the tongue and the cracked teeth.
To Joseph, the mask began to seem almost
like a parasite, drawing the pores of the face up
into its own linings for the only life it could have.
It is said the mask is now in the Vatican, locked
in a vault and forbidden to anyone but the Pope.
Perhaps the face is too distorted. Or too ordinary.
Some say the resurrected Christ shattered
the mask and it was methodically rebuilt
by heretics Others clamor to let the mask be
a dark sealant on the last two thousand years.