When the artist painted the vault of Il Gesu
he set the gold clouds on fire. Who is it
that watches from the nave, neck arched,
that lights a candle for fire?
The broken stair, the ladder undone. Noah asks
if we’ll meet the Magi when we die.
Freud says memory, at four, is complete,
its harvest moon pale mirror full.
Moon shadow in the well, gathered,
spilled, paint on the ceiling,
I try to explain what it must be to draw
a thousand-foot ceiling, build a scaffold
to support your weight and lie face up,
brushes in your mouth, mixing burnt umber—
some blend of linseed oil and animal—
and sunlight falling on the dark wall.
Or ash, the moth we keep behind the glass
in the bathroom. He wants
to open it, wants to touch its shadowy,
electric blue, or set it loose
into the winter air, moth in snow
that was an envelope, swathed
in sleep, leaves of gold or mud, a room
fifty feet by twenty to grow a million
silkworms spinning out their threads
to make a shirt, a scarf, a sheet
to sleep beneath, perfect insect,
Imago Dei, that was a worm, bursting.
Christine Perrin lives in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and teaches in the Writing Seminars at Johns Hopkins University. Recent poems of hers have appeared in TriQuarterly and The New England Review.