Ghost Frescoes

By Maria Terrone 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).


This poem originally appeared in the December 1999 issue of Poetry magazine

View this poem in its original format

December 1999
 Maria  Terrone


Born in New York City where she still lives, Maria Terrone is the author of the poetry collections Eye to Eye (2014), A Secret Room in Fall (2006) and The Bodies We Were Loaned (2002), as well as a chapbook, American Gothic, Take 2 (2009). Her poetry ranges widely in subject, drawing inspiration from modern urban life, history, migration, and memory.

Writes Dana Gioia about Eye to Eye: “Maria Terrone's poems are simultaneously . . .

Continue reading this biography

Report a problem with this poem

Your results will be limited to content that appeared in Poetry magazine.

Search Every Issue of Poetry

Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

This poem has learning resources.

This poem is good for children.

This poem has related video.

This poem has related audio.