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Christ of St John of the Cross

Updated: Mar 19, 2022

By Salvador Dalí: A Reflection

by Charles A Holme

Image: Salvador Dalí, Christ of Saint John of the Cross, c. 1951

Oil on canvas 204 x 115.9cm. Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, Glasgow

Lifted high above an idyllic country view,

A lake, mountains, an empty fishing boat,

Against a menacing black sky. One man crucified.

Viewed from close overhead. A notice on the cross.

He is a carpenter who loved wood. Knew its grain

And strength. Chose it, shaped it, smoothed it

For village life. Seen here, ironically, hanging

From the rough beam of Roman justice

Below a notice.

No crowds passing by busy with their daily lives,

No jeering religious leaders, cowering disciples,

Distraught mother, gambling soldiers or penitent thief.

Alone. Raised against the engulfing black of this world

Below a notice.

Lit to show his Healing Hands, fractured, bleeding, torn,

By hand crafted, hand piercing, second-hand nails.

Shoulder muscles weakening, each shallow precious breath

Sighing blessings, forgiveness, love for Mary, a psalm

Below a notice.

That notice. Is it his name and crime?

A curse or a blessing? About victory or defeat?

Or, like on a parcel, delivery instructions

Sending him to some distant realm to be forgotten?

Or as an unwelcome, uninvited gift,

A ‘return to sender’ address?

It is all of these at the same time.

By his water and blood on that cross

Past and present linked for ever to my future.


Listen to Charles

The crucifixion depicted in Salvador Dalí's painting would normally be expected to be seen above the high altar of a church, but it was painted without a patron, owner or place in mind. You can listen to Charles A Holme narrate his poetic reflection on Dalí's Christ of St John of the Cross by clicking on the link below.


About the Poem

The poem is dated July 2020, revised in 2022. Because of my faith, it was the notice on the cross that attracted my attention. I saw the picture and the poem was already forming before I knew it. It went through eight revisions before I felt it was finished.

A fine example of the old adage: ‘Writing poetry is 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration’.

Charles A Holme

March 2022



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