Detail of a Peacock
Jennifer Stewart Fueston (bio)

Nestling in the niche between the chapel’s crumbling
arches, his long blue neck plucks nibbles of tessera.

He wanders through mosaic parables like something risen
out of time, wearing fashion all wrong for Byzantium—

a jaunty tri-plume hat in an age of halos. You presume
at first this must have been a gold-leaf sermon contra

vanity, or like those tapestry-arrested unicorns, an
attempt to tame our lusts of flesh. His sumptuous blue

feathers with their knowing eyes seem destined
for a harem girl’s accessory, so what are they doing here?

What Augustine wrote at Carthage, though, unveils
the peacock’s changing reputation, that before

its current turn as vain pretender, or the empty suit,
the Church discovered peacock flesh does not decay.

So poke at any early Christian tomb and there
they preen, depictions of life that does not die, the

incorruption of brief bodies made eternal. How every
year a feather’s molt returns brighter and more beautiful.

This long-necked fellow settles into tessellation,
his plumage not quite all unfurled

so not to draw too much attention, but whispers that
he’s hiding here for now, a creature caught

in colored bits of glass, waiting till these ruins
are restored to make his move.

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