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Published: Mon Apr 15 2002
Eva Lundsager, Were now like (detail), 2021, oil on canvas

When the artist painted the vault of Il Gesu
_     _ he set the gold clouds on fire. Who is it
that watches from the nave, neck arched,
_     _that lights a candle for fire?

The broken stair, the ladder undone. Noah asks
_     _if we’ll meet the Magi when we die.
Freud says memory, at four, is complete,
_     _its harvest moon pale mirror full.

Moon shadow in the well, gathered,
_     _spilled, paint on the ceiling,
I try to explain what it must be to draw
_     _a thousand-foot ceiling, build a scaffold

to support your weight and lie face up,
_     _brushes in your mouth, mixing burnt umber—
some blend of linseed oil and animal—
_     _and sunlight falling on the dark wall.

Or ash, the moth we keep behind the glass
_     _in the bathroom. He wants
to open it, wants to touch its shadowy,
_     _electric blue, or set it loose

into the winter air, moth in snow
_     _that was an envelope, swathed
in sleep, leaves of gold or mud, a room
_     _fifty feet by twenty to grow a million

silkworms spinning out their threads
_     to make a shirt, a scarf, a sheet
to sleep beneath, perfect insect,
_     Imago Dei
, that was a worm, bursting.

See what's inside AGNI 55

Christine Perrin lives in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and teaches in the Writing Seminars at Johns Hopkins University. Recent poems of hers have appeared in TriQuarterly and The New England Review. (updated 2002)

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