Torcello

By Catherine Sasanov Catherine Sasanov
Offshore, the Apocalypse   
stays contained   
to one island and its church.   

Venice's ruler's out wedding   
himself to the ocean   

while I'm ankle deep   
in the Adriatic,   
eyes raised to a book   

unencumbered by words: A Bible   
that reads from East to West. Guidebooks   
want only   

to see it as ceiling—the Basilica   
San Marco,   

where Christ's hands open on wounds   
embedded with rubies, and priests   

hold back the sea with brooms.   
I'm taking on incense,   

bowing at altars dragged out   
of Constantinople,   
sloshing across marble   
sacked from Jerusalem.   

Offshore, the sea's a bride bought   
with a fist full of diamonds   
the Doge throws into the deep—

a sign of his true and perpetual dominion.   

Then why does walking into this church   
mean stepping into the ocean?   
The sea is a dog—
Priests throw in bones just to placate it.   

The year's nearly 2000,   
but the millennium already hit once   

on the island Torcello,   
a kind of plague the Venetians contained.   
999 years,   

and the dead still crawl from dirt   
towards their radiant bodies,   
they still gather up   

missing limbs: arms, legs, hands   
sharks and beasts keep regurgitating.   

We do what we know—
But Christ never wanted to manage   
resurrections in Venice.   

Underdressed in the flesh   
from dead civilizations,   
he moves among us in Byzantine skin.   

I'm getting close to this God   
worshiped only by tourists.   

He picks at the wounds   
on his crucified body, the injury   
scabbed over with jewels.

Source: Poetry (October 2001).

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This poem originally appeared in the October 2001 issue of Poetry magazine

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October 2001
 Catherine  Sasanov

Biography

Catherine Sasanov received an N.E.A. Fellowship in 1997 and has had residencies at the MacDowell Colony and the Vermont Studio Center. She is the author of Traditions of Bread and Violence (Four Way Books, 1996) and a new manuscript of poems called Raise the Dead Inside My Given Name. The Mabou Mines Theater Company commissioned her to write Las Horas de Belén: A Book of Hours, a play about a seventeenth-century Mexican women's . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Money & Economics, Faith & Doubt, Social Commentaries, History & Politics, Religion, Christianity

Poetic Terms Imagery, Free Verse, Persona

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