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Gary Paul Lehmann

Unless I Feel the Wound

In his studio in Rome, Caravaggio arranges four male models

in order to paint the pure astonishment of St. Thomas as he probes for his faith.

In the final canvas, only heads and shoulders appear.

Belief must inhabit the upper reaches of the human anatomy.

 

"Unless I feel the wound, I will not believe," says Thomas.

In the painting, Caravaggio sketches Thomas with his finger extended.

His face is contorted as he thrusts his stubby digit into the open wound.

Caravaggio's composition disquiets the mind with its bluntness.

 

There is no blood. The brow of Thomas is lifted, furrowing his whole face.

Leaning slightly forward, Thomas bears the burden of all mankind.

He concentrates on that finger, that wound. His ears rise up like some primitive animal.

His eyes narrow, and yet he needs to peer ever more intently, because he cannot see it.

 

The face of Jesus is in shadow, but His one hand draws back the shroud to reveal his wound,

while his other hand guides Thomas' finger to the place. "Let me guide you," he says.

Somewhere in this scene of all-too-venal curiosity, there is majesty, purity, even dignity,

but does Thomas ever confirm his faith, exploring around inside a dead man's ribcage?

 

Caravaggio gives Thomas the benefit of a patient Jesus who condescends to his need for certainty.

Jesus says, "reach hither thy hand and thrust it into my side; and be not faithless, but believing."

As he wipes his fingers of the sticky pus, Thomas looks into the dead eyes of the risen Jesus.

"Why have you let me do this thing?" he wonders. Jesus can be excused for not replying as he is dead.

 


Twice nominated for the Pushcart Prize, Gary Lehmanns essays, poetry and short stories are widely published over 100 pieces per year. Books include The Span I will Cross [Process Press, 2004] and Public Lives and Private Secrets [Foothills Publishing, 2005]. His most recent book is American Sponsored Torture [FootHills Publishing, 2007]. Visit his website at www.garylehmann.blogspot.com

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