Shanta Acharya

The Reckoning

Inspired by ‘Christ Mocked (The Crowning with
Thorns)’, a painting by Hieronymus Bosch in
the National Gallery, London

The first thing you notice is his face, glowing –
the whiteness of his robe enhancing

his dark, mesmerising gaze, unnerving,
yet calm in the face of calamity. Stepping

out of the claustrophobic frame, away
from the menacing grip of mocking men,

he carries on the conversation that began
at the beginning of time. Holding my attention,

he puts me on the spot with his steady stare,
timeless in its provocation the implicit question:

Who are you, what manner of human are you?

Christ surrounded by tormentors, dressed to kill,
men who are not fit to worship at his feet –

false prophets, preening hypocrites, torturers,
bullies and connivers, undeserving of his gift.

There’s one in a flamboyant hat sporting a sprig of oak,
the acorn in its cup winking like solid gold,

his throttling dog collar with shiny spikes speaks
of misplaced loyalty to his paymaster, not his redeemer.

Another balances a wreath of thorns on Christ’s head
while an iron gauntlet protects a perfidious arm,

a belligerent arrow wrapped in the green folds
of his fashionable headgear leaves me squirming.

The third man with white hair and spiky goatee beard,
a crescent moon and yellow star on his flowing

head-dress, stands leering as one molesting hand
rests presumptuously on Christ’s body; the fourth

leans forward, hands raised to uncover Christ’s robe –
schadenfreude writ large on their louring faces.

Outside the sky darkens, the room begins to empty,
street lights dazzle, welcoming the festive season.

Shanta Acharya has the distinction of being published in poetry, literary criticism, fiction and finance. Educated in India, the UK and the USA, she has lived and worked in all three countries. Widely travelled, Shanta brings a global perspective to her work. An inter-nationally recognized poet, she has published six collections and given readings in the UK, the USA and India.