Bluetooth

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Photo of nun’s teeth from the New York Times

By Kate Foran

Cruising through the latter days
of Western Civilization in my forest
green Corolla under a 12 year
ultimatum on climate catastrophe
while my phone talks to my car
so I can listen to the news like this
tidbit about an eleventh-century nun
whose dental plaque was a fossil
record of all she consumed,
starch residue and flower pollen,
wool fiber and insect parts,
milk proteins and flecks of precious
lapis lazuli, but wait, how did that get there?
The blue stone came on the Silk Road
all the way from Afghanistan, was ground
to make a pigment as valuable as gold,
and here it is in her anonymous
middle-aged teeth. Maybe
it was her task to mix the stone into ultramarine.
Or maybe she practiced
emotive devotional osculation, in her ecstasy
kissing the text, coaxing micro shards of blue
into the warm, wet corners
of her mouth where it settled
in her sediment. Her secret plunder.
Or more likely, she, herself, a woman, was an illuminator.
In a dark age she envisioned the robe
of Jesus Christ in vibrant royal blue;
Christ the lowly whose mother said
cast down the mighty, whose mother said
send the rich away. She saved
a story for us, sent it riding through the centuries
on vellum made of animal hide.
She must have taken her brush
between her lips to moisten the bristles
to a fine tip before dipping it again to paint,
her spittle mixing with the DNA
of the sheep vellum and the image of the son of man.
The lapis azure scattered over her teeth,
speckled like robins’ eggs,
beckoning us to speculate.
When a call comes,
interrupting this story, I can’t answer
because I’m driving and I look out the window
at the stretch of highway and the sound barriers
and realize I’m not sure how I got here.

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