Without Meaning To
Christ’s finger, raised as if He meant to stress
a point of argument, might be aimed at
us. An accusation, perhaps. This is
after the painter, without meaning to,
had killed Ranuccio, which might account
for the more sorrowful tenor of this
version. Maybe, in fact, that could be guilt
on Christ’s countenance, and not pity for
those he’ll leave again. Who’s being accused,
and of what? Guilt can be so relative.
See how the hands of the man who leans in
towards Christ cling fast to the table as if
he knows already what’s to come and needs
the certainty of the wood. Ironic,
as it was wood Christ found himself nailed to,
hung up to evince suffering for all
to see. Often it’s what we hold on to
that ruins us. Often we can’t let it
go, even as we can’t help but notice
everything beginning to fall apart.
What must it have been like to realize
god had not died on a miserable
stalk of wood staked into the ghastly earth
of a stark hill that had been named after
a skull. For this truth to have been revealed
by the breaking of bread with crust so dry
it sounded almost like a bone being
pierced with a spike. So much of what we love
can be illuminated by being
connected to some kind of suffering.
Though the bread is breaking, Christ hasn’t yet
broken anything, and so hasn’t been
revealed as the god who had been broken
on that tormented spectre of a tree
just days before, the figure Cleophas
and the other had told him stories of
as they walked together to Emmaus.
This is the moment the miraculous
is still to come, and the mundane is still
enough to tell us all we need to know.
Of Miracles We Are
How much is forgiven by the darkness
that surrounds us whatever light we find
ourselves in? Can it be enough to talk
into the night no matter how tired
we are, telling of miracles we are
desperate to believe might mean something
more is always just about to happen
to make sense of it all? Is there enough
water to wash us clean of sin, or wine
enough to rinse out every rancid taste?
These poems are part of a manuscript of ekphrastic poems based on paintings by Caravaggio. In the manuscript, there are five poems on each painting, each poem being ten lines long with each line having exactly ten syllables.
George Looney: "My books include the just-released Ode to the Earth in Translation (Red Mountain Press), a collection of stories, The Worst May Be Over, which won the Elixir Press Fiction Award, The Itinerate Circus: New and Selected Poems 1995-2020 (Red Mountain Press), the Red Mountain Press Poetry Award-winning What Light Becomes: The Turner Variations, the novel Report from a Place of Burning which was co-winner of The Leapfrog Press Fiction Award, Hermits in Our Own Flesh: The Epistles of an Anonymous Monk (Oloris Publishing, 2016), Meditations Before the Windows Fail (Lost Horse Press, 2015), the book-length poemStructures the Wind Sings Through (Full/Crescent Press, 2014), Monks Beginning to Waltz (Truman State University Press, 2012), A Short Bestiary of Love and Madness (Stephen F. Austin State University Press, 2011), Open Between Us (Turning Point, 2010), The Precarious Rhetoric of Angels (2005 White Pine Press Poetry Prize), Attendant Ghosts (Cleveland State University Press, 2000),Animals Housed in the Pleasure of Flesh (1995 Bluestem Award), and the 2008 Hymn of Ash (the 2007 Elixir Press Fiction Chapbook Award). I am the founder of the BFA in Creative Writing Program at Penn State Erie, editor-in-chief of the international literary journal Lake Effect, translation editor of Mid-American Review, and co-founder of the original Chautauqua Writers’ Festival.
The Ekphrastic Review
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