Madonna and Child with Saint John
But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart. Luke 2:19
Not everything the angel spoke in the narrow
dark of Nazareth, nor every word
the seraphs sang above that rough stable
with its pall of dung and afterbirth was glory.
Before her Fiat came the spectre
of all that was to come: bitter burst of locust
on her nephew’s tongue, grit of sand against his teeth,
a searing ache like Eden’s flaming sword sunk deep
into her breast as she beheld his head upon a salver.
And, yes, the seawater would rise
like cobblestone beneath the soles of her son’s
calloused feet, but, so too, his naked flesh
would be furrowed by whips, his wrists pinned
to wood hoisted on a godforsaken hill.
No wonder then, the succor she takes in the boys’
fleshly delight, too young for lust, still tender as two
ripened dates, mouth to mouth, heads inclined
to form a heart above her heart which understands
it will be shattered for a god’s unbearable design.
How deftly the artist fixed to canvas the sum
of brute history—that women pay the awful toll
for glories claimed by deities and men. Behold,
the storm whose fury gathers in her sable
chasuble, the sanguine flood that streams beneath.
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
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