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Ghost Frescoes

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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 (Poetry)

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

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Ghost Frescoes

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  • 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 sensuous and spiritual, earthy and intellectual. Her imagination takes fire from contradiction and complexity. One small image—washing a potato or rearranging a lingerie drawer—can open up vistas of private desire or public history. Her poetry explores the contingencies of time and eternity.” Reviewing Eye to Eye for The Common, Sarah Wetzel noted, “Terrone sees the world in all its blemished and brutal multiplicities.”

    Her work, which has been published in French and Farsi, has appeared in...

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