Standing Beneath the Spanish Cross at the Cloisters

by Jeffrey Essmann

Outstretched and nailed upon the planks of pine
the crucified is dying as a king;
his crown of gold and forthright gaze outshine
the morbid shades his fading life enring.
I cannot meet his eyes and so look down
and fear more what I’ve found than what I’ve lost: 
that there’s a secret burden to the crown
reminding us that victory has a cost.
I stand beneath, no longer horrified
by mere remembrance of his ghastly pain,
yet quail to know I’m only glorified
by blood unseen that leaves a deeper stain.
The cross’s crime is not Christ’s final breath
but my own lack of will to share his death.

Jeffrey Essmann is an essayist and poet living in New York. His poetry has appeared in numerous magazines and literary journals, among them America MagazineDappled Things, the St. Austin ReviewU.S. Catholic, Grand Little Things and various venues of the Benedictine monastery with which he is an oblate. He is editor of the Catholic Poetry Room page on the Integrated Catholic Life website.

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