about the author

Lynn Hoggard received her PhD in comparative literature from the University of Southern California and taught at Midwestern State University, where she was professor of English and French and the coordinator of humanities. In 2003, the Texas Institute of Letters awarded her the Soeurette Diehl Fraser award for best translation. For several years, she was an arts writer for the Times Record News in Wichita Falls and wrote more than six hundred articles, features, and reviews. She has published five books: three French translations, a biography, and a memoir. A poetry collection, Bushwhacking Home, is forthcoming from TCU Press in spring of 2017. Her poetry has appeared in 13th Moon, The Alembic, Atlanta Review, and many other publications.

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Saint Peter with Key and Wings

—retablo circa 1840 by Rafael Aragon,
Arroyo Hondo, New Mexico

Lynn Hoggard

In these blood-of-Christ mountains,
the artist remained so isolated
that he missed the Renaissance—
all its atmospheric perspective, its perfection
of the vanishing point, its rendering
the physical world divine.

This painter stayed rootedly medieval.
For him, beauty was not bait
to reel us into the material world.
Instead, matter acted like a membrane
through which the godly shines.
It shines through Peter’s face
as he looks down toward earth
in sadness and compassion, the giant key
to unlock heaven firmly in his hands.

Without a vanishing point tethering him to earth,
he floats in space, the background gone.
The saint, not someone to study,
now becomes someone we receive.
We are warmed in the painting’s golden glow—
a symbol of infinity beneath the martyr’s feet—
and touched by his flame-drenched robes.
Like cornstalks sprouting from his shoulders,
delicate wings surround him,
lovingly shaped like an almond.

We feel his tenderness toward our suffering.
We feel the holiness shining from his body.
We feel salvation rise from us like incense
as Peter’s wings reach down
and lift our souls to heaven.

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