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Of One Matter – poem by Derek Sellen

Of One Matter

         – after the painting La Sagrada Familia by Josefa de Óbidos.
           in which Joseph holds out a cross to the infant Christ

In Sevilla, in the first years of my life, not yet waist-
height among the crowds, I saw the Virgin borne up
out of candle-lit dark on the shoulders of twenty men,
step by juddering step into the full sun. Trumpets sounded
and a gypsy voice sang the saeta.
                                              The memories came with me
into my father’s country where I studied with the nuns;
for me, those effigies had breath and blood and sinew
more than the convent’s pale life. So when I painted
la Sagrada Familia, I gave Joseph the long-bridged nose
of a wooden saint with its triangle of shadow, Mary
a breast contoured by the run of a grain. My Christ-child
reached to the slender square-cut cross, gazing on it
as if he and it were of one matter, drawn to each other.
I thought of the novice who’d hidden a stillborn in her cell
and of trees that are felled for the supple strength of their heart.


Of One Matter by Derek Sellen was highly commended in the Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition (November 2017) judged by Abegail Morley.