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Dancing in the Tabernacle by Traci L. Slatton

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He was a miser, stank, wore his leather boots to bed
asked to be buried in his spurs. He was gay
but wrote poetry to a Christian lady, argued
with popes, was canny and faked
paintings in the hand of Older Masters.
He had excellent PR. His surly temper
precluded many friends, but Raphael
sneaked into the Sistine Chapel to be raptured
by his art. Indeed, who is not? Buonarroti
depicted himself flayed, but in Christ’s line of sight.
The rest of us transcend our skins
when caught up in the spectacle of his Judgment
Day, or the eyes of the Delphic oracle.

Walking along the Via Condotti, rich dresses dazzle me, wrapped
around vivacious Roman women and shameless
sexy plastic forms. Seduction
like a good house wine intoxicates
me. I want a man in my arms
and I want grace’s dispensation.
There is an empty pad of paper by my bed.
It is clear that my art, fueled by ferocious longing,
will not bring me the release I pray for. In this
I keep the company of my betters. Matter is a haloed thief
of spirit. The body begets unredeemed light.

Original publication: Sulphur River Literary Review, Volume XXI, No. 2, Fall, 2005.


they are the twin snakes coiling
around the root that rises
from the foundation of everything
the ice-blown mountain and the luscious valley
the North and the South Poles
East where the sun ascends and West
where it sets, where hope goes
when the soul sleeps from its jubilant travail
through the flesh
blazing red-orange corona and indigo shadow
they are the twin irises of God’s two eyes

during the day I wander
watching people in the street
they walk in a mania of flickering light
rainbow envelopes and gold serpents crawling
exulting germinating in their bodies I wonder
Are they awake?
Am I?

at night the tabernacle opens
and I succumb to the dance
wedging myself into the waltz
between heaven and hell
when I am not dancing I am praying
when prayer fails the gate opens
and I am broken and whole
falling into two places at once

Original publication: Oregon East Magazine, Volume XXXI, September 2000.

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Dancing in the Tabernacle

Lyric poetry that explores the soul.
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