Quality is the first norm for art, but its final norm is love and truth, the enriching of human life, the deepening of our vision.

Christine Perrin & Luca Signorelli

Luca Signorelli: Resurrection of the Flesh

At the San Brizio Chapel, Orvieto
Resurrection of the Flesh

by Christine Perrin 

I stand neck arched
         to watch Ezekiel's skulls and cages
                                                       come alive.
                  I've seen such corpses,
    like black basalt,
                              preserved in leaden coffins.

They would turn to ash if you
            lifted the glass. Their toothy smile
                                                         is the horror
                          of non-feeling
      the pelvis, an orchid,
                                    a bloom of death.

In this lush tableau of velvety flesh,
             the Resurrected pulled fresh
                                                   from the earth,
                          look blankly skyward,
      like us, still waiting,
                                emblems of spring in the margins.

Light spent, I drink my fill
           and walk out into evening,
                                        in a city the texture of dream.
                        I wander the medieval streets
     back to my room
                               and find a fallen nest.

Vine and moss and human hair
           are all intertwined,
                                          imbricated feathery weave
                       barely cohering. I pick it up.
    Dante in the Purgatorio called this
the hour that turneth back desire 

In those that sail the sea.
               The swallows sail the bruised air,
                                              the fresco bone
                        finds bone—
         if I turn to you,
                                 if you speak gently—

Look, the heart, as these birds, moves
              in its frail coracle, drunk
                                               on jasmine and light,
                   bend toward my silence,
      my brittle bones,
lift, beloved, breathe.


Christine Perrin holds a B.A. in Writing Seminars from JohnsHopkinsUniversity and an M.F.A. (Master of Fine Arts) from the University of Maryland, where she concentrated in poetry. Christine has taught literature and poetry at JohnsHopkinsUniversity and MessiahCollege, as well as the Gordon in Orvieto program. She has also taught poetry at various K-12 schools, teaching at every level and consults with schools on literature curricula. Christine has published many poems in publications such as Image Magazine, The Sewanee Review, TriQuarterly, Christianity and Literature, The New England Review and many others.  She has twice received fellowships from the Pennsylvania Council for the Arts and from Bread Loaf Writer’s Conference.  

Luca Signorelli: Resurrection of the Flesh, 1499-1502, fresco, chapel of S. Brizio, Cathedral of Orvieto, Italy.  

Luca Signorelli (c. 1445 – 1523) was an Italian Renaissance painter who was noted in particular for his ability as a draughtsman and his use of foreshortening. His massive frescoes of the Last Judgment (1499–1503) in Orvieto Cathedral are considered his masterpiece.


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