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Lives of the Saints

ISSUE:  Summer 2009

In all the paintings
they share the look of impatience,
as if embarrassed by the rich oils, the stretched canvas
in which their gaze is caught, down to the pupil.
Here, among the attributes of lion and wolf,
the transverse cross, they suffer the interminable
tyranny of this world, their eyes turned
histrionically upward. This place,
not the body barbed with arrows, is the martyrdom.
The tallow burns low toward kingdom come.

We have asked their intercession,
not their pity. This is why we turn
to portraiture and still life, where the bottle remains
unemptied, the zest of an orange
trails tenuously, but holds. Our absence
is of no consequence to them. They have no taste
for bread alone, and no ear
for the songs that make us weep in hurt and joy.


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