Looking at Saint Francis in the Desert, Two Days before War
Today at work they trained us
in dozens of blistering ways to die,
how to run from smells of almonds,
geraniums, fresh-cut grass,
how we need to be lucky all our lives
but the terrorist needs luck once.
The best way to leave a room fast?
Skirt the walls, don’t run straight.
Now that we all know this, we can
run into each other along the walls.
And the gas masks and protective suits
aren’t available, last only three hours anyway,
and do you really want a suit if the only way
to relieve yourself is down into your boots?
Yes you do, or else you die, or so they say.
And what if this gallery were empty for 200 years,
a dirty bomb’s half-life? St. Francis would still
stare to the left, up and holy, presenting his heart
to the light, slack, awed, without his self, with bliss.
His hands open beside him, a la garden statue,
though no bird lights on them yet. The canvas shines,
tiny sparks in the daylight sky, glamorous, real.
The room smells of grandmotherly upholstery.
The canvas’s wormholes were filled in 1928.
The guard paces slowly. The rabbit looks at the artist.
Whatever the saint contemplates, I see the opposite. In his spring,
the donkey stands beneficent, the desert blooms, the wounds
appear out of adulation and empathy. We will run, perhaps
bleed out, if we smell that garlic in the grass.
Tina Kelley’s third poetry collection, Abloom and Awry, came out in April from CavanKerry Press, joining Precise (Word Press), and The Gospel of Galore, winner of a 2003 Washington State Book Award. Ardor, her first chapbook, won the Jacar Press chapbook competition and appeared in September. She co-authored Almost Home: Helping Kids Move from Homelessness to Hope, and reported for The New York Times for ten years, sharing in a staff Pulitzer. Her writing has appeared in Poetry East, Southwest Review, Prairie Schooner, and The Best American Poetry 2009. She lives with her husband and two children in Maplewood, NJ.
Her blog is tinakelleypoetry.wordpress.com
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