Lucas Smith: ‘Crucifix Floreat’

Crucifix Floreat

It is a simple silver altar crucifix
But for one ecstatic detail.
Just to the left behind Christ’s ear,
A musket ball has made a floreat hole,
potent artifact of candle times,
symbol to spawn a million homilies,
Substitutional theology made visible.

An angry land dealer, the story goes,
In a quarrel with the priest, fired too low
During the Elevation, and seeing at once
The poignancy, repented, was reconciled,
And gave his fortune to Capistrano.
That’s the story, anyhow, it rings true
But for one ecstatic detail: the floreat

Bursts outward; the ball came from behind
And no priest turns Christ’s back
Towards the people during Mass.
How did this floreat end up at the crux,
The crossroads, the vertex, of this crucifix?
A kid potshotting after outdoor Mass,
The priest’s own gun-cleaning accident,

Or the land dealer shooting from the vestry
Or some deeper act of mala fide?
Perhaps the priest deserved it, or, darker still,
Devised the wound himself for homily material,
Or to impress the illiterates with a miracle,
But dared not sight the Lord his target;
Mystery made argent, crux with musket floreat.

Lucas Smith

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