share


Saint Anthony the Hermit Tortured by Devils

 

Sassetta has him feeling no pain, comfortable even,

Yet stiffly dignified at an odd angle like the statue

Of a fallen tyrant, beaten in proxy by his delirious subjects.

 

His halo falls with him yet retains its rectitude,

Remains a perfect corona for that saintly demeanour.

He knows his martyrdom’s assured, his place in heaven reserved.

 

But the devils are bending and leaping, as much taunters as torturers.

One pulls his cave-dark hair and raises a club to smash the heaven-bound brains

From the skull.  Another, monkey-like, clubs the sacred legs beneath his cloak.

 

A third is poised with gigantic reddened jaws where his genitals should be,

About, it seems, to bite the saint in half.  His back sprouts snakes and wings.

Behind them all, a serene landscape with squat, identical trees, is silent.

 

The devils’ claws grip the earth while the hermit hovers over it,

As if cut out of another painting.  In life he’s already ascending.

I prefer their heat, their human dedication to the job in hand.


ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTOR

has published poetry, short stories, critical essays and travel writing in magazines in the UK and internationally.  He was runner-up in the Elmet Foundation Ted Hughes Poetry Prize. His work appears on the Poetry Library archive, for which he has made recordings.

READ NEXT

Art

July 2013

Redressing the Balance: Women in the Art World

Louisa Elderton

Art

July 2013

London is among the capitals of the international art world. Every day and night is witness to innumerable new...

poetry

Issue No. 2

Letter to Jim Jarmusch [Broken Flowers]

Jon Thompson

poetry

Issue No. 2

What they’ll know of us in future years: the large interiors of our suburban homes were designed by others...

Art

March 2011

Gabriel Orozco: Cosmic Matter and Other Leftovers

Rye Dag Holmboe

Art

March 2011

‘To live,’ writes Walter Benjamin, ‘means to leave traces’. As one might expect, Benjamin’s observation is not without a...

 

Get our newsletter

 

* indicates required