Passion Triptych

van cleve triptych

A city looks on:
the domestic industry of smoking chimneys, lighted windows,
life goes on, people shrug,
another criminal gets what’s due,
sad for the family but the rule of law must…

As others filter out this everyday evil
I, with the three others, let a hand touch
this bruised reed,
this now-extinguished wick,
no longer dimly burning
but darkened by
judicial sentence,
military-precise humiliation,
hammer blow,
dead wood erected,
quiescent citizenry.

Our hands that touch
offer the only care left to us –
to bear the weight of sorrow,
to lay claim to the Loving One,
to place all our hopes in the dark mustiness of hollowed-out rock,
as if to plant a seed in soil that has never yet brought forth yeild.


Joos van Cleve’s triptych of 1505-08 is in the collection of the National Galleries of Scotland.



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