Silver, glass, bone
the church of San Giovanni Battista, Rome
When they were set afloat
in a boat without sail or rudder
in the sea off of Galilee—
their lord dead, risen, and gone—
it wasn’t a metaphor.
The sea shone hot and greasy
with summer. Fish perhaps
leapt up ladders of their own
bodies to climb into the mouths
of Magdalene, Lazarus still
stinking of death, and Martha,
her servant heart waiting
to be called.
Some people say
they landed in France, some
in Ephesus, that place of mystery.
Some people say Magdalene
lived thirty years in a cave,
was fed bread and water
through the window by Martha
until her body became a box
Or she was raised
into the sky by an angelic chorus
and fed the nectar of heaven
that tasted of certainty and stone.
Or she traveled to Rome and
brought an egg to Caesar
Tiberius, a red egg. Rebirth
and all that.
But after her death
they divided her, these
same people, a tooth there,
a jawbone here, her arm
in London. But here in
Rome rests her foot:
elegant, thin, silver-bronze
as scales, frozen and glamorous
as a fish made of stone.
Such division was unsurprising.
Mary, really, she was used
to it. But back in the boat,
their feet burning on the hot
staves, they are still wondering,
the three of them, where they will
land, what they will do without him.
The hot sun, the water, and still
the fish leap into their mouths
like answers to questions
they have not yet learned to ask.
from Museum of Objects Burned by the Souls in PurgatoryFind more by Jeffrey Thomson at the library
Copyright © 2022 Jeffrey Thomson
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, LLC on behalf of Alice James Books.