Santa Maria Assunta
In Spoleto two nuns are walking through the piazza
to the Cathedral
across terracotta tiles laid edge on
in a pattern that looks like the ribs of fish.
Their veils starch-crack in the breeze and
rosaries hang by their sides folded into brown robes
and catch the light on every other step.
They wear plain sandals and their toenails are yellowed and fungal
and they shade their eyes from the sun and stop to
look up at the gold mosaic
high up, exalting.
I sit against stone in the loggia and wait for afternoon opening;
for the locks to be drawn back,
for door to open quietly,
for the echo of footstep on tile,
for the interior cool.
I’ve come for the frescoes
for the life of the Virgin Mary
to see colour alive after centuries
and the soft humanity of faces painted into plaster.
He was buried here
in a tomb now empty,
his body stolen in darkness, bundled onto a cart,
horse stamping the tiled ground snorting white breath in chill night air
still heavy with rosemary
and driven down rutted tracks to who knows where
by the family of the girl he ruined,
his limbs pulled socket from ball,
bones splintered with hammers,
reburied somewhere in pieces
or just scattered for the foragers.
The nuns kneel and I take a photograph,