An Easter themed poem for this week’s installment. ‘Corpus’ comes from Damian Walford Davies’ latest collection, Judas.
A shattered Judas Iscariot – that byword for betrayal – tells his own story in Damian Walford Davies’ compelling and finely wrought new collection from Seren.
We follow Judas over the course of five days as he moves through first-century Jerusalem trying to make sense of the bewildering events surrounding the life and execution of Jesus. But this is a man for whom the future is as real as his anguished and traumatized present, and for whom the Arab-Israeli conflict is as urgent as the tension between the Romans and Jews. Emphasising our compulsion to create, and challenge, gospel truths, Judas gives voice to man caught up in the promise and violence of history.
In short-lined, intensely suggestive dramatic monologues, Damian Walford Davies vividly summons moments of fear and swagger, doubt and passion, despair and nonchalance as an outlaw Judas finds himself haunted by his chequered and extraordinary past. Familiar stories are rendered strange and uncanny as the reader is caught in multiple ironies. As striking as the unnerving images on the news loops of our TV and computer screens, these poems locate us on the hazardous streets of a divided city with a companion-guide who shares with us his own troubling and troubled version of history.
Drawing on conflicting representations of Judas spanning twenty centuries, this chain of poems sets out to challenge orthodoxies and easy pieties. Judas offers an imaginative map of ancient enmities – and dares to hint at resolutions – in the form of a dramatic autobiography of the man whose most famous act (they say) was a kiss in the dark.
What can I say? I wasn’t there:
neither ready to relieve him
of the transom’s heft
at Via Dolorosa, Station number five;
nor standing with his mother
on the quarry’s scree
to watch his wrists
between electric nerve
and bone, and hear him
gurgle, drowning in the liquor
of his lungs. I could have tracked
the trail of blood
from here to where the last gob
hit the ground. The morning
had an air of perfect
commonplace. I howled,
so silently I know he heard.