Santa Maria del Popolo
They are listening underfoot here, filigree-tongued and built with bones crowding from centuries of faltering tombs. Childhood compels me to lift the Latin hiding in marble-dry corners of the mouth. I drop a reluctant euro to hear the filament click, releasing a private light. Saint Peter, all linen, part grief, allows a little fire from the face, and grasps for a saviour still slipping through, between, and past the chapel's lock. Four centuries on the verge of execution, his pearl face will lurch to amber. A child has split his head on a wayward font and something in the clay-dark blood thrums along the umbilical cord between Mary and every mother. Without burning a prayer on the tongue of a flame, I am drawn to the molten day, out and onto the gold, until all is ceiling; all is sky – when ‘temple’ is not enough for this place, but neither is ‘Church’. Later, after I am heavy with wine, I wander the minutes and step ahead of an obelisk as its edges foam skyward, departed of the earth it displaced. Overhead, sugar crystallises to red tiles, snapped and licked dry in anticipation. An oculus plays threadneedle with the rush of sun. Rooftops arch to spiders’ legs, tapping delicate on the shoulders of millions. Children curl to golden hills, each an immobile messiah asking how God could fill a room.