Ecstasy of Saint Teresa: Bernini's Glorious Statue and a Poem it Inspired

On this, the last official day of spring break (weekends don't count), I thought I'd share a poem inspired by a piece of art that has fascinated me ever since I encountered it in Art History 101.  A couple of years ago, I tracked the sculpture down to its home, Santa Maria della Vittoria in Rome, and everything that was mind boggling about it in photographs is even more so in person--the body language, the facial expressions, and especially the various textures of cloth, cloud, wing, and flesh.

So I wrote this poem: 

St. Theresa in Ecstasy

after Giovanni Lorenzo Bernini

The angel, when he comes at last
in a trumpet blast of light
glistens like a newborn, smooth
of cheek and chest, his slender waist
cinched in wind-washed gauze.  She’d willed
this visit, prayed for days, refusing
sleep and food.  Now he appears
beside her, naked arm drawn back.
His fingertips caress a spear,
point it at her heart; his smile
betrays amusement.  This could be
the moment just before his arrow
plunges through her breast--as if
to pierce my very entrails,
she would write--or it could be
the aftermath.  Her heavy vestments
lift and rustle; from their depths
she swoons, lips parted, body curling
upward toward that flame-tipped arrow,
that cauterizing point, and though
the whole tableau is stone, she vibrates
like a harp string as the hand
draws back.  One bare foot clings to earth
as, limp, she crests a wave of pain
surpassing sweetness, tasted once
and hungered after: Now the soul
is satisfied with nothing less.

This poem and others like it may be found in This Bed Our Bodies Shaped, my second poetry collection, published by Able Muse Press.


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