The Ecstasy of St. Cecilia by Connor Simons Raphael – 1514 – oil transferred from panel to canvas I. at a makeshift altar in a living room enmeshed in afternoon Alaska light a tinny plastic speaker is playing O What a Friend I Have in Jesus country twang steel guitar rumbled snare drum we attendants sing along – we her choir sing along cats curve themselves between plastic catheter tubes the pastor trips over a pile of paperbacks someone drops a beer can into an almost-full recycling bin my mother is wearing a red wedding dress her yellow eyes roll upward her ears are stuffed with the silence of dying II. in a past body i sit with my back leaning against my mother’s knees she reclines on the dog-drool stained brown couch her hair is still the color of sunset’s end her lanky fingers in my hair stopping at old childhood scars comments on where the knotted flesh had its origin slotted in the decade old CD player a scratched copy of the Beatle’s greatest hits either one of us could list the tracks without missing a song how many times did she sing through the whole disc? how many times did she tell me about the first time she heard Hey Jude? how many times did i hum the guitar part while she took the melody modulating her notes up a third straining her throat her chin tilted up as if her song was for the audience she never had as if the ragged carpet of the apartment the glass door smudged with fingerprints the way material life reflects disappointment could all melt away when she closed her eyes and sang how many times did this singer of my life sing not knowing i was there at her feet bound by love to listen? III. the afternoon resounds with mumble color is amplified blue can have so many blues the sky is a series of divisions human- sky angel-sky paradisic light dribbled down to the most common of rituals a wedding everyone brought their best fabric some are in thought chin in hand some chatting of whatever it is saints discuss of what the bride could be thinking when her eyes lock on to the rip in the firmament she sings her song alone human words are left for human activities human melody pentatonic scales in flight finger on taut string lip to metal mouthpiece clank of tambourine wind pushed through brass or wood or throat all is strewn abandoned on the ground her eyes are closing her ears are stuffed with the hymnal blare of personal hosannas for the god she accepts as the coming music of death
Hear Connor Simons recite the poem on the Viewless Wings Poetry Podcast:
Five Poets Recite (Nathalie Kuroiwa-Lewis, David Holper, Connor Simons, Norma DaCrema, Linda Drattell) – Viewless Wings Poetry Podcast
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Connor L Simons is a queer poet, essayist, and translator based in the Twin Cities. He received his MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Minnesota, where he worked as Poetry Editor for the Great River Review. His translations have been featured by the Minnesota-Somali Poets Corner and the Havana International Poetry Festival. His work has most recently appeared in the LA Review and Breakwater Review, and is forthcoming in the Brooklyn Review. When not trying to convince his dog to leave the cats alone, he works as a grant writer for a non-profit in St Paul, MN.
You can find him on Twitter at: @ConnorLSimons1