Thursday, January 07, 2010


turning aside from mysterious tesserae
you wept into a living sky

surviving without
the murky watchers over
the heart's too-shadowed tides.

in the arch of Heaven, well-hidden
made brighter, more angelical
who can say how-

illumine all
these short-circuited ways
in a tattered script, revealed in dreams,
it may be...

down a dream green
corridor of trees you walked on
almost immune
in the frosted over

somehow shine shine your
inverse rays through these

sunburst syllables, tessarae,
invective is not poetry is not
anything at all and we are suffering

under so many low ceilings.
my magnificat falls apart-
who can say why
from all the sidelong arrows
through the heart, the professional
sizing up...
but I've pulled up my sagging socks

thinking of Vissi d' Arte-
as sung by Callas.
even in spring, tesserae,
the trees on earth
wept flowers of gold

resembling nothing, if
not you
and I am withholding my

last golden turnip from
the still watery Stone Soup
required by those unkind;

in subzero basements my
stoic angels stand
non-antiphonal silence:

holding fast the tilted mirrors mirroring
my God my God

mary angela douglas 7 january 2010

*this poem was inspired by the following passage on mosaics from the Encyclopedia Britannica, 1983:

"The tilting of tesserae became an art in itself. In 6th-century Byzantine mosaics, there evolved a new technique whereby gold and silver tesserae were set at extremely sharp angles to enhance reflection. By pointing their mirror ends downward in the direction of the onlooker it was possible tro secure maximum light effect. In Hagia Sophia at Istanbul, the enormous gold areas in the wall mosaics of the emperor Justinian are set with cubes tilted this way. In one particuarly dark corner, the tesserae are not only tilted downward but are also turned slightly sideways to catch the light from a nearby window. A similar technique, based on a high degree of tilting of the gold tesserae in unlit areas, can be observed in the mosaics of the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem (c. AD 690).

Halos set with tilted cubes that bring out the circle of light surrounding the heads of holy figures became common in Byzantine mosaics of the 6th to 7th centuries, as is seen in the mosaic panels dating from this period in the church of Hagios Demetrios, Thessaloniki. Striking examples of such haloes are also found among mosaics that were put up in Hagia Sophia in Istanbul in the 9th centry, above all in a panel with the kneeling emperor (Leo VI?)

Effects such as those described above are unthinkable without the accumulated experience of the craftsman-artist. In the 20th century, mosaic increasingly has become an art divided between the inventor who furnishes the design and the worker who executes it. It may be that the dry character of many modern mosaics can be ascribed to the fact that the artist no longer puts his thumb on every tessera."