Saint Jerome in a Landscape
The lion, seen from behind, wears a mane of midnight. If he could talk
he would talk of lying down with lambs, of the hole of the asp
and of a sore paw. The sting, sempiternal. The same wood as the
crown of thorns.
His friend, the saint, would be his listener. Jerome, a little man at one
with the rock of an ancient castlehill.
The illegible scrub of his hands: pages, or a tablet, are filled
with holy scripture. His stylo: a three inches thorn, smoothed.
Behold, isn’t he wearing the travel hat and an aura of clouds
that you can also see in Tischbein’s Goethe in the Roman Campagna?
And above the visitor of the Onehunga cemetery
on a hazy Sunday afternoon? Watching the incoming
tide, a charcoal horizon obscuring far away lands he remembers;
his brother who had sold the fields for a sack of millet
then went into the bush to listen to the wild bees’ hymns
in the cathedral of a dead lion’s rib cage.
Norman P. Franke
N.B. Legend has it that Saint Jerome who translated the Bible from Greek into Latin (the Vulgate Latin Bible) had a pet lion. Saint Jerome had befriended the lion by pulling out a thorn from the lion’s paw.
Dr Norman P. Franke is a New Zealand based poet, scholar and documentary filmmaker. He has published widely about 18th century literature as well as German-speaking exile literature (Albert Einstein, Else Lasker-Schüler, Karl Wolfskehl) and eco-poetics. Norman’s poetry has been broadcasted on radio and published in anthologies in Austria, Germany, New Zealand, Switzerland, the UK and the USA. [2017/18 finalist at the Aesthetica (UK) and Feldkircher (Austria) literature contests; 2019 takahē (NZ), and 2019 and 2020 Flash Frontier (longlist), NZ Flash Frontier, regional winner Waikato 2021, Münchner Lyrikpreis, Germany (shortlist) 2021, Bridgeport Competition, UK (shortlist) 2021]
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