Five years ago, when I was in Europe leading a pilgrimage tour to England with Joseph Pearce, I learned that the Shroud of Turin was to be on display for veneration in Turin. After the pilgrimage in England I made my way to Italy where I was joined by a friend. After a few days in Rome we traveled North to Turin and joined thousands of others to venerate the famous relic.
As the relic was on virtual display on Holy Saturday this year I was reminded of our visit five years ago and the poem I wrote reflecting on the experience. This poem, “Resurrection,” is one of a cycle of poems on the Mysteries of the Holy Rosary.
The poem is a modified sonnet form, and I am influenced by the poetry of “The Movement”—English poets Philip Larkin, Donald Davie, and Elizabeth Jennings who retained traditional forms, but wrote with the cadences of everyday speech, maintaining the discipline of rhyme while often disguising an obvious rhyme scheme with enjambment, eye rhyme and near rhyme.
For what it’s worth, the reader may also note a strong allusion at the end of the poem to Donne’s Death Be Not Proud and my own nod to Donne’s fondness for wordplay and puns.
I tried to lay aside the arguments
and just view the evidence before me.
Of course the case for authenticity
matters, but direct experience
is where reality and theory meet.
We stood silently in the darkened room:
thirty strangers—all travelers far from home
drawn to an ancient linen winding sheet
singed with the image of a tortured man.
As fragile as the portrait of a ghost
sketched by light it seemed. Suddenly I’m lost.
The bloodstains, the wounds, the face—I’m shaken
by the violent tenderness of the sight.
Full of dread, I’m un-mightied by the shroud.
Like death I kneel; like death, I can’t be proud.
Done, I rise Into the morning, clean and white.
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The featured image is “Holy Face of Jesus from Shroud of Turin (1909)” and is in the public domain, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.