Sunday, April 09, 2006

"The Law" by Eugene Gloria

When the civil guards approached me
and asked me for my papers,

I pictured the face of a sunny saint
being disemboweled on the rack.

Widows in perennial black, addicts of prayer,
find comfort here the way monks

in hair shirts must take to penance,
or me, addled in my blissed-out days

in San Francisco, tugging daily on a roach.
And that's how I must've been,

befogged in Ávila on a visit
that coincided with the papal tour.

A murder of crows, clerics, nuns in wimples,
tarring the field with their black habits.

St. Francis de Sales dispenses, "The measure
of love is to love without measure."

This republic of goodness
was once peopled with spies. Maybe

that's what got the saints in trouble,
their willingness to surrender

once found out. I know authority
when I see it make a U-turn to pull me over.

I also know that the Burgos Christ
in pageant-red skirt is tethered to a story,

its weals and welts, blue-black,
the wounds Nicodemus witnessed as he

lowered Jesus, alone in his discarded body.
The carving by Nicodemus

would one day float its way
first to a monastery, then to Burgos.

When the civil guards approached me
and asked me for my papers,

I felt for a string around my neck, my scapular
like a leaf pressed on the road of pistils and stamens.

That moment stood
for something I can no longer recall.

What with those men and their gift
of whiteness, their constant need of proof.

I must've smiled at them, clueless yet longing
to be profound.

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