Some obscure fact

January 3, 2020

At some medieval point, unicorns signaled incarnation,
making whatever virgin lured one to her lap
some sort of Mary. I had never heard of that,
not through all of undergrad or three years
of divinity school. I’d never witnessed
a preacher employ unicorns as sermon metaphor
or heard such a simile in prayer, embedded
in some liturgy striving towards freshness. 
Instead I learned it in a café, from a book bought
on vacation: Hieronymus Bosch: Between
Heaven and Hell.
Art reminds me: we lose
symbols all the time. At a museum in Madrid,
I stared at an infant Jesus squeezing Mary’s breasts,
her milk sprinkling onto purgatory’s sinners—
faith same in name encoded in images strange
and unrelated to any belief I’ve ever had. Which
of my meanings will expire without some obscure
fact of history as frame? Is it only the name
that lasts, pushing beyond all paradigms
past and present? Jesus, Jesus, Jesus.