Wild Court

An international poetry journal based in the English Department of King’s College London

‘Santa Maria del Popolo’ – a poem by Olivia Hodgson


    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.