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The John Edward Johnson Prize

Kit Loney

Saint Paul: List

Saint Paul Making Three Appearances on the Stage of His Illuminated Initial

                         After a mid-twelfth-century manuscript in Oxford’s Bodleian Library

Behold him at the crown, preaching

amidst domes and arches of Damascus.

Saint Paul here haloed, bearded,

eyebrows furrowed. His forefinger curls

toward his disciples who cradle

in the new red moon crescent.

Garment drape and swirl

like tide swallow, ocean swell.

See him again as bird-like hands

grasp the ropes to lower his basket

down the stem of the P.

He holds up two fingers,

smiles a blessing to the cluster

of worried faces at the window.

Behold him finally at the base.

Beneath the cresting wave of his own

hunched back, he turns his head

away from the black-bearded grimace

of his executioner, whose hand,

pressing Saint Paul’s neck

to bare it for the blow

melds into the very curve of his halo.

From a corner of sky above them,

a hand reaches down, signs dove,

mockingbird, perhaps laughing gull.

The sword is drawn and raised, blue

and transparent as water, as though death

is a trickle stream you can see right through.

Saint Paul: Text
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