Ghost Frescoes by MARIA TERRONE

Basilica of San Zeno Maggiore, Verona

A chubby fist and wing
float free, severed
from the landscape of human affairs.

Below, a barefoot saint
seems to straddle acres, beaming
casual self-possession, the divine

right to stake eternal claim—but
in the space between
both legs, a third intrudes,

last remnant of a man fading
to white dust. Nine hundred years ago
this wall was his. Reduced

to a toehold, he now spites
the fourteenth-century arriviste,
holding his ground with the ghost

of what he was. The saint remains
oblivious. Centuries sweep
around him like planets’ rings;

the church’s wheel-of-fortune
spins rose light
through plague and war.

Yet so vivid
are his blue and russet robes,
he glistens—a refugee

from a sun shower
who’s arrived dripping wet, an idea
fresh from the brush of his maker.

Source: Poetry (December 1999).

from Poetry Foundation


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