In Harmony with Caravaggio

Five men sit around a table
while two stand at the extreme right.
How strange, those seated have
foppish hats, embroidered and brocaded
shirts, tight leggings, swords sheathed.
The other two stood wearing robes
of centuries past, both pointing to
the five with their right hands,
One hesitant, the other imperious.

The one seated at the middle, he
with the long beard and expressive
mien, points to himself, as if to say
“Who, me?” While the one to his left
looks askance and haughtily
at the summoning hands. Another
looks down at the pile on the table,
weighing the money on a scale.

The one that points to himself,
face full of doubts, is Levy, the tax collector,
tallying up currency with friends.
He has been singled out
with one call.

The window panes are in place,
wooden bars that unmistakably
cross, under which the beckoning
hand, not yet impaled, is held high.

There is a big void between the men,
a black miasma of doubt, fear,
extreme hesitancy, that might not
have been breached, had Levy declined.
There is a slant of light, but
it does not illumine the room.

To answer a call that seems so
out of one’s imagination. That is
what makes it so amazing, so startling,
and yet, seemingly expected.

Don’t we often say yes to unexpected things?
Playing a dangerous game of not
even hedging our bets, because
deep within we know that
something marvelous is about
to happen, something that will take us
out of our ordinary existence,
and bring us somewhere even
our minds do not dare to dream.

We do not even take time to
point to ourselves and ask, “Who, me?”
Never mind the void, the useless light,
the cross, the Cross.

It needs courage to say yes.


Alice M. Sun-Cua
Alice M. Sun-Cua
Alice M. Sun-Cua (b. 1955) is a poet, travel narrative writer, literary translator, and a practicing obstetrician-gynecologist. Her latest books include Nada, a Spanish novel by Carmen Laforet translated into Hiligaynon, and Golden Kumquats in Trieste and other Travel Narratives. She was a recipient of the UMPIL Gawad Pambansang Alagad ni Balagtas Award for the English essay in 2018.


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