Sunday, July 3, 2011

Jerome and a Theory of Nails

Online here. Fewer italics in the print version, for some reason. I like the online typesetting better; Jerome's voice is more clearly demarcated from the narrator's.

Griffiths has three poems about an intriguing character called Jerome. (Since the poems are ordered alphabetically by title, these three poems are conveniently grouped together; their titles all start with the words "Jerome and a theory of...") Jerome is apparently an archeologist, fond of good food and morbid speculation. In each of the poems, Jerome and the narrator eat a different tasty thing and speculate about a different morbid topic together. All three Jerome poems are sequences of free verse quatrains.

In "Jerome and a theory of Nails", the morbid topic is crucifixion. How might one crucify Jesus most efficiently, in terms of iron and wood? It would be best to use just one nail for both hands, and one for both feet. The tasty things are radicchio heart, cloven tomatoes (nice devilish word, that "cloven"), sea salt, and Iberico ham. The conversation does not seem to spoil Jerome's appetite, or the author's.

I'm intrigued by the juxtaposition of food and pain in these three Jerome poems--something about the combination makes it difficult to look away. Jerome himself comes across as oddly sexy. When it comes to safety and sanity, I have lower standards for fictional characters than for real-life people. (Can you imagine Mr. Rochester in person? Yikes!) So it's nice to be able to imagine Jerome as a character without any practical concerns getting in the way.


  1. ...They must have used great iron buggers.
    They drove one through both feet. Chunk. Chunk.

    He grates sea-salt meticulously on a cloven tomato.
    Say they only used one through both wrists? Hammered it

    Hokey doodle, I see what you mean. Fine dining juxtaposed w/ crucifixion of Jesus, indeed - morbidly marvelous. I think this would be a personal fave of our Lord too, for the reason that the dispassionate eating whilst discussing such gory details, mkes the passion of the Christ that much more horrendous and haunting, and makes us contemplate how God-awful (sinful even) mankind can be.

  2. Have you ever noticed that we always serve copious amounts of food at both weddings and funerals? It's kind of like that. And the prisoner to be executed gets a last meal. Like that, too. This poem seems like vicarious sharing of the Last Supper. The appetite to live in the face of dying becomes that much more keen.

  3. Jeanne, if I believed in a God, I'd believe in a God with the keen moral and aesthetic sensibilities you describe. (Otherwise, what's the point, really?)

    Laurie, I hadn't noticed that connection; I like it. The life-in-the-face-of-death idea really explains the the "dances like a defrocked angel" at the end.