by Marilyn Annucci


St. Petersburg, Russia

The saint behind the picture frame is aloof
and otherworldly as anyone behind glass.
Not much of a conversationalist.

Yet someone in a flowered kerchief
stops, rests her face against the pane.
Her lips move soundlessly, her shoulders

tremble, as if this were the Gate,
the one partition that keeps her
from Heaven itself. The saint’s hand

lifts, but not to touch. Perhaps to bless.
He exists on the other side of these smoking
wicks, odor of stale coats, irreverent

clicks of cameras by curious tourists.
She doesn’t mind. She brings her lips
to the glass, pauses long enough

to leave her breath. Draws back.
She wears simple shoes
and a plain, almost school-girl skirt.

And I want to know her
sadness, what she whispers
to the entombed one, her heart’s desire.

When she leaves, an old man takes her
place, kisses near the smudge she left.
The human parts press against the holy.

-originally published in Sou'wester (Fall 2006)