Sunday, April 16, 2006

howell: the cardinal in venice

No one knew
the cardinal had been in love
and walked naked
in his five senses
while the Lion of St. Mark
nosing into the Venetian watery winter winds
purported not
to notice

it was because of Lespintina de Ossio
eighteen, whose wide grey eyes
he'd seen, as if in dream
and whose confession
had been handed up to him
by several chalk hands
with black cuffs

her sin?
it seemed to him (for so it had been reported)
she thought the devil more sincere in his evil
than those pretending good who
shunned the dear gifts and wounds of Christ

had He himself not suffered
children, publicans, and
the hot-splayed Magdalen
and those whose peccancies
were sharp, small, yet secret
all in the name of
circumstantial love?

the cardinal froze for his portrait
that we know
but there was a tenderness withal
hidden in one limp finger
a little pardon
because of his own needs
had not her youthful and simple logic
undone him in his scarlet chambers
there where he had sighed
with such regrets
his prayerstool prefiguring

his certain catafalque

which she surely would have wept to see the lace of
had the plague not carried her off
at twenty.

The Cardinal in Venice
by Alice O. Howell

photo: San Marco Square. 4AM by Luke Harby

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