Rubens’ The Martyrdom of Saint Laurence

(in the Alte Pinakothek, Munich)
It fills the frame: a richly orange red
That lights the garish flesh of all grouped here.
The martyr's face betrays no trace of fear
But turns imploring eyes to the skies instead
As soldiers holding no grudge but merely seeming
Intent on seeing their job to its ashy end
Adeptly and gently bear him onto his bed.
Some clod in red cloak eyes him as if half-dreaming;
And, raising one's gaze, one sees a cherub descend
Through smoke to crown the wraith with a wreath, while below
An apish drone spills a wicker basket of sticks
So as to stoke the gridiron's hateful glow,
Ensuring a sainthood he surely does not intend.
Captains, a statue, a fool—all caught in the mix—
Complete this crazy cauldron and carnival show.

William Ruleman is Professor of English at Tennessee Wesleyan College, where he teaches a wide range of courses, including creative writing and literature, with a specialization in modern poetry in English. His poems have appeared in Acumen, Candelabrum, East River Review, The New Formalist, The Sonnet Scroll, The Galway Review, and Poetry Salzburg Review.