My Religion is That I Love You

Sarah Wetzel


If il passato is your love
                                                   then I’ll come
from its ruins and churches, its altarpieces. I’ll come
from the vacant villages
of Po Valley, the Prealps of Italy, its inbred
priests still fingering their beads.

If I’m a blasphemy, then you too
against the IMAX 3D, Malevich’s white on white
                              canvas, windmill after steel windmill, against
their slick mystery.
Inside this bedroom, a city

changes its name, the rivers
direction, the birds—
crested larks and the Caspian terns—forced
                                                                               far off course
by inexplicable winds,
they find shelter. Yet before even this sacred air
we’re dying.

                        Oh Amore, let me put my mouth
to your ear and insert
a small insect of praise. Of longing.
I’m like a madwoman
                                       wandering the lava fields
of Amiata, poised at the edge
of its crater, a dog
discarded and looking for its mate.

If we must die, in this room
we live. It is—don’t you believe?—a kind of myth.


A Myth Starring Maria Callas

Sarah Wetzel

                    All the world is my unburied body.
                                           - Pier Paolo Pasolini, “The Beautiful Flags”                 


The sun drives its elbow into the earth, the earth’s
myth [a mouth] that we have to keep
feeding: wheat and worm, the grey thrust of olive
with our tiny paper cups
of water,
                 a compost of the beloved body.

So that every morning, the world recreates itself.
The city reassembles its skeleton
from night and the piles of soiled clothes, shaking
themselves loose,
                                 begin to speak.


“Jacques,” Maria says, “I have just seen something sickening!
Pier Paolo Pasolini’s film Teorema. The man must have been mad.”

Jacques doesn’t look up from the sheet of white paper
he is carefully folding.

Maria goes on a bit louder, “In the movie, a young man spends
the weekend with a family in the country. He makes love
to the mother. He makes love to the daughter. Then, he makes love
to the son. The father runs screaming into the desert.”

Jacques pushes back his glasses. “That’s God,” he answers.

“What do you mean God?” Maria asks.

“The man, the young man in the story, is God.”

Jacques opens his palm to her. In it, floats a miniature heron.


From an underground bunker, the film director
telephones the priest.

How much blood does the earth want?
Which of them [of us] must be sacrificed?

                                                                           They compare
columns of debits and credits, calculate losses.

             What were feather and skin before fashioned
as heron [as human]?

                                       What was water before we called it river?
How much of it must she drink

                                                         not to drown? To keep safe,
what song must she sing?


Sarah Wetzel is the author of River Electric with Light, which won the AROHO Poetry Publication Prize and was published by Red Hen Press in 2015, and Bathsheba Transatlantic, which won the Philip Levine Prize for Poetry and was published by Anhinga Press in 2010. After job-hopping across Europe and the Americas, she currently teaches literature at The American University of Rome. However, she still spends a lot of time writing on planes, dividing time between Manhattan, Rome, and Tel Aviv, Israel. She holds an engineering degree from Georgia Tech and a MBA from Berkeley. More importantly for her poetry, she completed a MFA in Creative Writing at Bennington College in January 2009. You can see some more of her work at

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