The Ecstasy of St. Cecilia by Connor Simons


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:

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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

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