Sunday, March 6, 2011


     Synchronicity: a great word, and an awe-inspiring experience.  In December of 1991, I was posing at the University of Delaware, while serving as the pastor of a small Presbyterian Church downstate (in "Slower Delaware," as those above the D & C Canal call it). I had just written a poem about the fact that Jesus was naked on the cross; the loincloth in almost all the paintings one sees is the product of church censorship.  
 As I was taking my break between classes, I noticed some paintings leaning against a wall: one of them depicted a naked Jesus on the cross, just as my poem described!  One of the students informed me the painting was by an MFA candidate, sort of a loner.  I never met the graduate student in question. 

     Skip forward almost three years, to the fall of 1994.  I have moved to Philadelphia in the summer of that year, leaving my wife & family in Delaware, following the end of my Presbyterian ministry, and was trying to make a living as a full-time life model.  On 3 November, 1994, I was on my way to a gig posing for an individual artist.  Al Gury was teaching an anatomy class at the University of the Arts, and I was his model one day.  During a break, he had asked if I might be interested in posing for him in his studio: he felt I might be just right for a new painting he had in mind. I made my way to Al's studio on Chestnut Street, just a couple of blocks from the Liberty Bell.  He had a fifth floor studio.  I climbed the 80+ stairs, and entered his studio apartment.  To my amazement, I saw that very painting of the naked Jesus on the cross I had seen at the University of Delaware three years earlier!  Al had been that mysterious grad student, and now I was to be his model!


Mary, who bathed His infant nakedness,
sees Him thus once more.
(Naked was He crucified, 
though few who bear His name
can bear to contemplate Him thus.)
Mary bears it with a mother's sorrow,
and, seeing Him thus naked,
she remembers His bris,
when she soothed infant tears
the first day covenant blade
shed His blood.
(Nails and spear can also
cut a covenant.)
She yearns to soothe Him now,
but only when He has been
deposed from His throne
can she embrace
His lifeless nakedness,
cradling Him to her breast,
where once, an infant,
He nursed in peace.

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