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St. Jacob's Church of the Hanging Head, by Cynthia Bond

November 19, 1995

He believed that touch

was a simple ride across a stream of velvet

at the skeining stall

or the sting of fire along brazed brass,

or when lightening cooled

in the wet sleep of a valley brook,

he had faith

in the promise of sensation,

the predilection of the body's mortal frame,

subdued, enraged as the hunger moved

to close the spaces

of what seemed to pass

and what, indeed, remained.

****

But nothing, no one

could predict the draft of terror

invading space so near the tattersall of jewels

the beggar's thumb had grasped.

What miracle of want

had fused his fingers to the Virgin's lace,

as if from an eternity of directions,

a hand or hands in cobra fashion

spiked his wrist,

and gaining force whipped

the venom into feral pitch?

****

No sooner had he dreamed at dawn

that in the cold posture of prayer,

a soldier's ax had freed his palm,

thought, the conscious vein,

was numbed to infinite suspension.

****

He remembered how before King Charles lay

in composition for the viewing mass,

he ordered all his fingers

sparred, to keep from being seized,

untombed into the darker death of neglect.

Above the reliquary

the beggar's bone, a deformed winch

propping up the vault of air,

points at the accused avenger. Opposite,

like a feeding plover wading light,

the Virgin, boasting pearls

as high as faith can rise,

tempts the heart of human nature

to face her mirror of greed.

No one breathes.

Should the statue move, all tombs will open.

From "The Hunger Wall" by James Ragan. (Grove , $17; 112 pp.) 1995 Reprinted by permission.

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