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Awaiting the best possible light

November 25, 2012

November is the month of apocalypse, of finality and universality, the Final Judgment. Leaves fall, winter approaches, and the liturgical calendar moves through All Saints’ and All Souls’ to end with the feast of Christ the King, Lord of the Universe–today. To mark the occasion, here’s a poem by Jorie Graham, “At Luca Signorelli’s Resurrection of the Body,” an ekphrastic of sorts on said fresco (found in the cathedral in Orvieto, Italy).

For more on Luca Signorelli, see here

See how they hurry
to enter
their bodies,
these spirits.
Is it better, flesh,
that they

should hurry so?
From above
the green-winged angels
blare down
trumpets and light. But
they don’t care,

they hurry to congregate,
they hurry
into speech, until
it’s a marketplace,
it is humanity. But still
we wonder

in the chancel
of the dark cathedral,
is it better, back?
The artist
has tried to make it so: each tendon
they press

to re-enter
is perfect. But is it
perfection
they’re after,
pulling themselves up
through the soil

into the weightedness, the color,
into the eye
of the painter? Outside
it is 1500,
all round the cathedral
streets hurry to open

through the wild
silver grasses…
The men and women
on the cathedral wall
do not know how,
having come this far,

to stop their
hurrying. They amble off
in groups, in
couples. Soon
some are clothed, there is
distance, there is

perspective. Standing below them
in the church
in Orvieto, how can we
tell them
to be stern and brazen
and slow,

that there is no
entrance,
only entering. They keep on
arriving,
wanting names,
wanting

happiness. In his studio
Luca Signorelli
in the name of God
and Science
and the believable
broke into the body

studying arrival.
But the wall
of the flesh
opens endlessly,
its vanishing point so deep
and receding

we have yet to find it,
to have it
stop us. So he cut
deeper,
graduating slowly
from the symbolic

to the beautiful. How far
is true?
When one son
died violently,
he had the body brought to him
and laid it

on the drawing-table,
and stood
at a certain distance
awaiting the best
possible light, the best depth
of day,

then with beauty and care
and technique
and judgment, cut into
shadow, cut
into bone and sinew and every
pocket

in which the cold light
pooled.
It took him days,
that deep
caress, cutting,
unfastening,

until his mind
could climb into
the open flesh and
mend itself.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Everyone permalink
    November 25, 2012 7:50 pm

    TL;DR

  2. November 25, 2012 11:11 pm

    No actually I think Jorie Graham is read fairly often.

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