Blackbirdan online journal of literature and the artsSpring 2012 v11n1
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St. Zita
     Basilica di San Frediano, Lucca

You had to see her for yourself, you said,
and so I tagged along, a foreigner
to churches, nervously reverent
in every darkened apse, inside the rich,

velvet-thick must, buttress-enclosed and bordered
on all sides with somber della Robbia blue
and gold leaf-tinted rapture, visible trusses, each form
mortared in place and deathless, separate from time.

Trapped in a photograph, I can still see the rush
of poppy-dotted fields, light hovering
in slow, translucent globes, your blond hair
drawing stares, the train ride uncomfortable.

Girded for centuries by ramparts, largely untouched,
the city beckoned us, and when we ducked
into the nave—leaving behind the sun-baked courtyard,
the hunched, black-kerchiefed women shaking

their heads, clucking their disapproval
of our bare shoulders and cameras, open-toed shoes—
and shuffled breathlessly into the cool
of yet another dim side chapel, we found her

whole as they had said: her glass case sized
to fit a child, limbs sapphire-wrapped, her forehead
crowned with roses. Incorruptible, they call her,
and in April lift her out into the square

to let the faithful touch her hardened face
or hands, the young girls’ arms brimming
with daffodils. Though in my memory, her body’s
anchored to the dark back of the chapel

where we pored over her frame in disbelief,
traced with our fingertips the wooden angles
of her wrists, her cheeks. Like you, I lit a candle
as we left her small, cold chamber for a blur

of unwalled country and a lengthening chain
of strangers, unremarkable, their names
not mooring anywhere—the field light
and our spare, convent-like room, your face

a girl’s still then, looking solemn from the window,
looking still out from the dull blue of the veil
I had you wear for that one portrait I saved,
gave to you last year for your wedding.  

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