Cell 7: The Mocking of Christ

from San Marco Suite—after Fra Angelico

To hear Angie Estes reading this poem, click here.

The pages of the book have turned
to stone and cracked, but Saint Dominic,
seated on the floor to the right, reads on
while Mary sits alone
on the left, bella cosa
beatified—not to be confused
with bellicose, inclined to start
quarrels or wars, like the bodiless hands
of the Roman soldiers, positioned
around the face of Christ.
the Greeks would call it, everything
in order like a chess game before
it begins, but no architecture
can be truly noble which is not
, Ruskin advised,
because it does not resemble
life—Venetian palazzos, gladioli—
one third in full bloom, one third
spent, and one third on
the way. Blindfolded
                                 above and behind
Mary and the Saint, Christ
is the apex of their triangle, check
of their mate, point
toward which everything
retreats—even the gaze
of Mary, although for now
it is turned away while she
touches her cheek to make
sure she is real.