J. Michael Martinez


after “The Movement of the Universe”
c. 1450-1500
Flemish, possibly Tournai tapestry
415 x 800 (163 3/8 x 315)
Museo de Santa Cruz, Toledo

“Thus adorned with the fixed stars the sky revolves under the pole both through the region of the North Wind and the South Wind; according to their different effects they are fitted to different figures of people and other signs and planets and the belt of the zodiac keeps their movement under itself.”

– in Latin on tapestry

Toward the burning lamp
from which all nations drink—

 the world’s pastures in the wildness
framed, a cry from its den

within phosphorus the abyss of light
plaits, expression in exultation,

these living accords

                               through cartilage, cardiac plexus

                                                                                 and tendon

stellis fixis tam per acquilonis locum
quam per austrum, juxta diverses effectus

embroidered through the fabric of Atlas’s worn skin
          the tarot taken
                            flesh, carried between flesh

          of bittersweet leaf
          & jewelweed

                            terra firma’s boundaries concentric
                                                                     and shadowed; the Holy Mother holds,

wedding day of the lamb
          lined on palm,                                  the celestial sphere, the sphered ambitions within

          the mapping, the measuring
                                of illimitable translation.


When the Angel acts     the sky revolves on its iron crank
          but who is the Satyr above the polar circle?

As time lived                                      extension without boundary or cross

who is She who weeps
          robed in curled blue
                                                      azurite indefinite,
is she sickle shape
                       in human frame

              where the crest of death is cleansed?

              Who is She circumscribing daybreak’s transparence,

                           duration stilled in parchment,

                                         in ink

her thorax as compass, palm as locus

                           her anger the unfixed

parameters of prayer,
                            pale minutes flocking to purlieus?


               In silence Philosophy courts Abraham,
                             a papyrus codex
                                        of ancestry,

                         on thrones of unpatterned
                                       reason, to question

                 the covenant, the circumcision
                                            for ascension, the gash more tender

                              than rods of gold, beryl studded.

                 Robed in carmine,
                              Geometry whispers,

                *What light lives us,
                              what light is lived, cultivates


                                           crying for water.”

                  In cry’s                       silence, Atlas
                              gathers the last hour,

                  in kid leather boots

                                                            the rings of longitude

                              into spined thickets
                                                          of a widow’s grey braids,

                                            garlands of light

                                            into a crown of bodies.

J. Michael Martinez received the Walt Whitman Award from the Academy of American Poets for his first book, “Heredities.” His latest, “In the Garden of the Bridehouse,” is available from the University of Arizona Press. He is the Poetry Editor of NOEMI Press and his writings are anthologized in Ahsahta Press’ “The Arcadia Project: North American Postmodern Pastoral,” Rescue Press’ “The New Census: 40 American Poets,” and Counterpath Press’ “Angels of the Americlypse: New Latin@ Writing.”