Anorexia Mirabilis: Mary Magdalene de’ Pazzi
In the lower choir where my sisters kneel
on this rough wood, restless, black-beaded,
lost in reveries of glowing oven stones,
the coarse seed bread and churned butter
that will soon break the long night of their fast,
I wait on nothing but you, Lord, unsteady as I am,
slow-pulsed and languorous beneath the weight
of my patched woolen mantle. Still young,
my monthly blood has halted like all hope
of the damned. I am mother solely to desire
ravenous as a coliseum beast and I will rise
only when the gold-throated bells have beckoned
You and I brush my lips against the priest’s
warm fingers, swallow You who deigns to enter me
white as a winding sheet before its terrible commission.
You stagger me like plaited thorns pressed
to my crown where this white wimple bends
its nimbus arc. You have inscribed the reliquary
of my heart with a secret to be read only when
I am laid open on the surgeon’s cold stone table.
The Word Was Made Flesh and dwelt within me.
O, Love who descends in a garland of fire,
bloodied robe spilling off the shoulder,
off the scourged hip, I am damp as a new bride
to behold the smooth cursive that arrows
from your muscled waist to the rag they hung
above your sex for the sake of modesty.
Unworthy though I am, a virgin with a harlot’s name,
I beseech You not for death, but agony, not light,
but doubt’s brute darkness. Render me desolate
and hollow as a midnight nave. Countenance
the cloister cupboards demon-gaped to illumine
glittering jars of late summer preserves.
Conjure a years-long ache in my belly,
wolf sister to the bone whip that flays me.
no matter this starved-drunk equilibrium,
the yellowed vellum of my skin, these bones
gone brittle as pendant ice. I remain renunciate
for Your name’s sake. I consent to nothing
but the unleavened moon that conceals
Your broken glory. O Lord, I beg You, shatter me
with promises of the feast that is to come.
Frank Paino’s poems have appeared in a variety of literary publications, including: Crab Orchard Review, Catamaran, North American Review, World Literature Today, Gettysburg Review, Prairie Schooner, The Briar Cliff Review, Lake Effect and a number of anthologies. Frank’s third book, Obscura, was published by Orison Books in 2020. His first two volumes of poetry, The Rapture of Matter and Out of Eden were published by Cleveland State University Press. Frank has received a Pushcart Prize, The Cleveland Arts Prize in Literature, and an Individual Excellence Award from the Ohio Arts Council. His website is: https://www.frankpaino.net
The Ekphrastic Review
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