Ignored Woodwork in Old Churches

Outside the intertwining diamond rings

on a saint’s dress in a painting, beyond the frame

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next to the chapel where the guidebook

mistook Dante’s hell for purgatory,

his suicidal Harpies for Man-Doves,

just past the Brunelleschi crucifix,

the seats where the preaching friars sit

are carved with scrolls and heads of animals

or men or monsters in between.

I want to know what kind of wood

and how the hinges will convert the seat

into a stall where a monk can stand for a while

to worship, tucked neatly into his niche

like the saint he is or may become.

Look closely on the armrest and you see

the pinprick wormholes perpetrated

over centuries. Softer than fetus flesh,

each worm extended the finger of its hunger,

and like a nearly imperceptible symbol of

a crucifixion nail, drove its being

into boring. Almost no one notices

in this nave where the naïve are drawn

like moths to where the stained glass

light above a chapel altar seems to make

each of us a cracking chrysalis restored

to what we always must have been becoming.

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