Joseph P. Wood
The Broken Body as Spectacle
Arch the back, the Romans do, then pierce the criminal with large rusty hooks, cruel fisherman angling out the condemned’s will like a bass in a raging, white stream. Finally, give or take twenty soldiers, hot & soiled, the monstrous gold helmets slipping over their eyes, each commissioned to shatter a segment of back so when the criminal is raised to the cross, they can slump him over a wooden arm, hang him upside down, & cinch the dangling hands & feet into a folded 180. Time will do the rest: each orifice to be picked so clean by crow or maggot or microbe that a year later, one could find the skull & firmly plant a votive candle in a socket. And say, at night, a holy man lit it? Would his audience, in their own idiosyncratic methods, strive toward a life as pure as a wind-swept cypress? If so, then why do the children spend their days in stealth & stuttering, as if some random madman would force a crown of decapitated rabbits? And why are the cathedral floors black & less black, as if they sucked the sun & spit back rotten teeth? It’s enough to throw oneself at the ocean, but the ocean just will bloat us: a walrus in place of a mother, coral in place of a God, sand in place of a law—this is how the Romans conquer.