The Mosaics of San Vitale                                   

            It wasn’t history that led me
            To the church that afternoon
            But heat, the promise of a 
            Refuge from the weary chaos
            Of Italian beaches and the 
            Flesh of cooling curiosity

            The large resplendent figures
            With their scowls and predatory gloom
            Had drawn my gaze
            Until a guide burst in
            With entourage in tow

            I couldn’t help but overhear –
            At first about the principles of restoration
            (An interesting coincidence)
            And then about the tesserae, 
            Their facets, sizes, composition –
            Marble, stone, ceramic, glass,
            Gold leaf, mother of pearl –
            How their fixture in the bedding mortar
            Was designed to use the shifting light
            For infinite effect

            I mused about the nameless artisans
            Who cut and painted, shaped and set
            With such precision every fragment
            In the service of idolatry

            A child cried out and 
            Tugged a parent’s arm,
            The tourists left
            And once again I was alone

            This time I couldn’t see beyond the bits,
            The million glittering mosaic elements,
            So carefully arranged, 
            The fractionated brilliance of the parts
            That made a mockery of the whole

            And what I fled
            Became –
            Exactly how who knows –
            A little more forgivable


            Emanuel E. García, Wandering Bark2013