agate density


Dante nearing the end of his poem
ambled around Ravenna
under cloudy skies.  He saw
the glinting tesserae in the high gloom

of San Vitale, Sant’ Apollinaris,
yet loved best
that older cryptic nest
Galla Placidia (Empress

for a day, exile & refugee)
had plaited long before –
with panel of Jesus-Nazir
styled as Arcadian Orphée

clasping rustic David’s staff,
loafing on a green slope
shared with sleepy sheep.
He loitered, gazing at the roof-

beams, lit with swirly-interlocking
whorls of 8-point stars
surrounding one small cross
like neon phosphorus – marking

their zones of cosmic midnight blue.
The mausoleum held
no body.  The rough shell
hid its agate density from view.

Primitive angel glyphs in caves
across the planet glimmer,
lurking, waiting for her
aria of plummet-stone, through waves


of spacetime, spiraling in Dante’s ear.
Singing, bringing in sheaves
(while Ariadne weaves
her fleecy oarlocks round one salty tear).

So tesserae reform, like Gospel
beasts into one
M – a beak so aquiline
& sharp to tear the casket lid from Hell –

the shearing blade of sheep from wolf,
of infant innocence
from feral insolence,
scattering bread across a shark-tooth Gulf.

Ariadne lifts her penny whistle sign.
A chartered Paris yearns
toward heaven – burns
for shame... the Minotaur’s declension

stokes the flames, flares orange
for a time (4 times).
In the House of 4 Pines
wind-chimes supplicate one ange

d’or via strange door (subterranean).
The flute still rhymes.
The sunny shepherd climbs
a green hill toward his Galilean

Psyche-Mendelssohn.  Sibelius
ratchets his violin...
geese fly from Ravenn
into Estonian concord (a Finnish Russe).


engr. by Harold Sund (from Ravenna : a Study, by Edward Hutton)

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