Wit Stwosz: The Dormition of the Virgin

Golden mantles ripple like tents before a storm
a surge of hot purple lays chests and feet bare
the cedar apostles raise their enormous heads
a beard dark as an ax hovers over the heights

The woodcarvers’ fingers bloom. A miracle eludes
their grasp so they grasp at air–stormy as strings
Stars grow turbid in the sky they make music too
but it doesn’t reach earth it stays high as the moon

And Mary falls asleep. She sinks to the bottom
of surprise. Tender eyes hold her in a fragile net
she falls upward as a stream runs through fingers
and they bend with effort over the building cloud

Zbigniew Herbert, 1990
(an impression of Wit Stwosz’ carved altarpiece in the Basilica Mariacka, Kraków)

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