Hagia Sophia, Venice Florida
Church Of The Holy Wisdom’ . . . cathedral built at Constantinople under the direction
of the Byzantine emperor Justinian I. It is a unique building and one of the world's
great monuments, despite time's ravages.
An American lady who paid ten cents to visit St. Sophia was so disappointed that she
wanted her money back.
―Herbert J. Mueller, The Uses of the Past
In the morning, I emerge from absence, and in the lull
before I grasp exactly who and where I am,
she touches the tip of my tongue―
What was I about to say?
―Now, on the way to the dentist,
the weatherman tells me what I already know.
And, I see her standing patiently
in a bus-stop kiosk, waiting out the rain,
her backdrop an old fresco
of swastikas and names separated
by hearts. The flotsam of food wrappers
awash at her feet are the remnants of offerings.
And, she is the cement-cast Virgin close by
the highway, in an up-ended bathtub, half-buried,
her gaze lowered modestly, arms open
in acceptance, the windows of the nearby
trailer as clouded as the broken eyes
of yesterday’s catch. The cars swim
by, old and new and all the same to her.
My little dashboard doggy nods in agreement.
And, she lays me down in her chair, hygienist
with the sad eyes. She sees my every sin, time’s
wear on the bone of me: fillings glinting
like veins among a year’s worth of slag
heaps and tailings, the pumps working hard,
and the little miners sweating away night
and day. Clearing the debris, she touches
a nerve, but whispers softly in my ear
forgiving me. Later, she offers me
a box of dental floss as I rinse.
After the storm, I walk along the shore
and collect the fossil shark teeth washed up
from the Gulf, glossy and perfect, among the gaping
mouths of empty seashells. A tour boat riffles by
and, masquerading as its figurehead, she looks
resignedly foolish with her jutting breasts and fishtail.
Away, on the horizon, beyond the shifting mosaic
of light on nervous water, porphyry columns of rain
rise to the shadowed dome of a thunderhead.