Monday, September 28, 2009

Ekphrasis, Yom Kippur, Christ Consciousness, St. Sarai

El Greco's
St. Bartholomew
I am at odds on Yom Kippur. I was raised a Protestant. My father was Jewish. I am a half-Jewish, Sufi-esque, Swedenborgian Christian who doesn't who doesn't go to church but spends time in churches when the congregation is elsewhere occupied. In New York many stunning churches are open during the day so I can sit and think on the confusing mess of our warring loving natures; ours and mine.

Museums serve a similar purpose, not to discount art for art's sake. Looking at art for looking at art's sake.

It feels good to post this poem here today. Once I learned the Jewish holiday / observance cycle -- and I was in my late thirties by then --  my internal clock a.k.a. voice within opened to its holiness.

The first draft happened at the Met as I was looking at a Flemish painting (pictured), "St. Christopher Carrying the Infant Christ Child" by a Follower of Dieric Bouts This poem was published in The Mississippi Review, a journal which, alas, has folded, and is included in my collection, The Future Is Happy. It was a "best of the web." 

St. Sarah Sarai Carrying the Infant Christ Child

Creeping, is what a saffron sun is doing,
creeping out from a past it will soon revisit.

I hike my blood-red tunic to my thighs
with one hand while the other, well,
in my arms, well, always a child,
always delivered to us in indrawn-
infant stillness, as if creation
holds its breath because, really,
all this is over so much too soon.

Isn’t making art remembering
what we knew? Why not, then, salvation?

The water over rocks cold on granite—
quartz and orthoclase—and slick moss.
I’m the last person who should be entrusted
to carry Him, me of the angry sinner school.

And I would forswear sainthood and irony,
I would, for this one, held against my heart.
Sarah Sarai. Mississippi Review, The Ekphrasis Issue, Volume 14, Number 4 (2008)
Editor Jane Armstrong


  1. I too love empty churches, as long as they are beautiful.

  2. Mim: That was in the back of my mind - to specify. Many beautiful churches here. Sarah