Deer shadow, larger than a man’s,
your privacy troubles me.
Your axle, unburied, has stilled.
There was a time when a piece of flint
kept our events confined to the valley’s coffin.
Now we separate ourselves from land.
We dig you up as though you were different,
separated by a gulf, a spade, a hand.
But you did not claim the earth—
you didn’t need to—as a kind of Eden.
A glint of fire tucked in a deer mold.
I peel back your shadow, larger than a man’s,
but in it, I look for the shadow of the man.
No voice beckons. If there is a voice
it cannot be distinguished from the valley.
When I examine you in the light, you change.
Your face turns away in the shadow.
The dirt embalms me also. I too turn away.
This torn beauty is nothing to offer,
shadow, axle, deer, man.
Perhaps we’ll have locked eyes
on this same flame.
In Giotto’s Pentecost, the guests eat and speak
through their requisite discs of light.
An inelegant solution of perspective—
how to crown those who show their backs?
They talk but their eyes look elsewhere
as if beneath the ether of that lens?
Each is patient, but each before me grabs
his handful of dust. Each eye trails to heaven—
that ethereal destination even now
shows itself tedious as a mechanism,
through banter and dull expression,
and with perfect knowledge sends them off.
For Stephen, a stone was enough to open
heaven, Sabastian a flit of pinions
singing through the skin. As if all
we needed was a martyr. How then,
to live without this light—to let in this light?
Amasne filium tuum frigidum Pater?
I cannot sleep. The opiates of religion
wear off and leave the body frigid.
As I envision death, I try to imagine
pressing my face through the dark air
to the heavenly objects behind it,
maybe nothing more than patterns, divine
coruscations—teeth of light like stealthy gears
that revolve for no one, open no doors.
I think how halos maroon each saint
to his hour, keeping that threshold open.
How each gold disc embroiders every head
to its private thoughts and anguish.
FRANK HARDER grew up in northern New York. He currently lives in Virginia.