Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Sicilia: inquisition in Palermo

death rides a skeletal horse
corpses trampled
a woman’s silent scream
arrow in her throat

in the museum of the inquisition
inmates draw
the moon dog devil
the faithful kneel
naked in penitence

whispers of sin
hell of sleep
endless pain
help us oh lord

someone here knows
the Nicean creed
writes on the wall
with anxious hope

I've been thinking a lot about the horrors that so many people have endured, including the terrible experiences that women have suffered because they are so frequently violated and tortured in ways that are specific to our sex. Rape is such a standard way of punishing women that it took until the 1990s for it to be recognised as a war crime. 

The painting that inspired this poem also horrified me. It is such a terrifying image of how one might die and how a multitude of people did die. After seeing this painting in the National Museum in Palermo, I then visited the Museum of the Inquisition. Europe has a horrendous history and yet the inquisition images gave me some hope. That even in the midst of this horror and what must have been inhumane prison conditions there was this outpouring of art and poetry. There were a lot of angels on these walls too but unfortunately those photos are very faint.

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