Maybe they were drunk or drugged,
those eighth-century monks on that frozen island,
or maybe they were using all the little they had
to dream their holy book—
painting exquisite interlaces of serpents, arms, and legs
around a picture's frame, or, in a chapter's opening word,
piling crazy mazes of Celtic spirals and trumpets,
or shocking an interface with lizards, peacocks, griffins.
Even Christian icons go animistic: The Chalice
blooms viny greenery to romance a page.
A contortionist burps a serpent while he shapes the letter “h” —
Is he biblical? Or the man who strangles a bird?
Their logic, if that's what it was—surreal—
Dragons and crosses, mice nibbling the Eucharist—
No matter—imagined means God's plan:
Let us illuminate the Gospel!
Note the portrait that opens St. John's chapter:
A kaleidoscope of halos, rosettes, crosses
floats eerily across the page; in the apostle's right hand
a quill, in his left, the book he'll write;
the folds of his robe, convolutions of a crab's belly,
drape his unbodied form.
And behind him,
behind the painting's frame, as if steamrollered to its back—
protrude a head on top, two feet at bottom (pierced perhaps by nails),
a hand on either side: Christ
embracing it all.