by Alan Bern
Winter trees bide they gate Orta’s Sacro Monte pathway, branches, bared to pale bark, lift death’s face. Lean Francesco, in stone, overlooks. His stick-crucifix held in cold air. A first step it takes many to sound out Francesco’s words chiseled at Chapel VI, “go dear ones… announce peace and penance… be patient… bless and thank everyone,” just up Viale Frate Vento, the Avenue of Brother Wind. Though I falter in penance, peace mumbled beyond me, I walk back down a stony path with loosened heart humming every one. /// let us learn from the stones silence San Francesco speak speak a cheek a face pleads down on stones steam huddled with face smooth on stone the other foot cold stone flies move in the wounds of the dead and the living the dead can read even if they may not hear open eyes and look out speaking into the ear of the corpse
Retired children’s librarian, Alan Bern, is the author of three poetry books and is an exhibited/published photographer. Recent awards include: honorable mention for Littoral Press Poetry Prize (2021); first runner-up for Raw Art Review’s Mirabai Prize for Poetry (2020); medal from SouthWest Writers for a WWII story set in Assisi (2019). Recent/upcoming writing and photo work in Raw Art Review, HAUNTED WATERS PRESS, Aletheia Literary Quarterly, CERASUS, Feral,Please See Me, Artemis Journal, and Mercurius. Alan performs with dancer/composer Lucinda Weaver as PACES: dance & poetry fit to the space and with musicians from Composing Together. Lines & Faces, his illustrated broadside press with artist/printer Robert Woods: linesandfaces.com.