®

Today's poem is by Joanna Goodman

On the Holy Friar Crossing a Suspension Bridge to Paradise

The hollower the world
below, the more amplified

the music of his slip. One hundred fifty years
ago, at Monte Casale, he gave up speech,

shoes, waved off all his friends;
already he had fasted half

of every week, gone inanimate and
dumb and returned to matter whole.

Imagine swallowing your own teeth
and not feeling it. That's the real

world, not the one you're dreaming,
which has you running across a thorn-

sealed plain, tassle-briared, bleeding.
Your godparents, in flames, say get up,

for you have a greater journey.
Now the smoke-vague bridge,

unrailed, skate-narrow.
Step. For This Is. Halfway

he walked, and then grew
wings, and flapped, and dropped,

domed like a rib vault on its ridge.
Three times he tried, and failed,

and then he flew.

*

Unless Paradise comes at the beginning
of the story, in which case

he should have remained a robber,
looting alms instead of begging

them. But this is not a story—
as ice frond isn't, or fishgut,

or the paleography of jagged stones
scrawled across the field, familiar

of bare feet, of frost's call—
monovalent forever

and forever assembling itself
beneath the shrouded zodiac.

This is only the unsequenced clatter
of crossing—

only the unhoused hours you keep
falling through, rapture

of the body receding,
a single vanishing point.



Copyright © 2003 Joanna Goodman All rights reserved
from New Letters
Reprinted by Verse Daily® with permission

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