St. Athanasius of Alexandria


St. Athanasius of Alexandria, Oil on Panel, 35" x 60" by Melissa Carmon



Saint Athanasius of Alexandria

Mere Nostrum: our sea
balmy air,
hot, and the
fading waters

Man with a midnight
twinkle in your eye
cagey, bold, and red as fire
you knew that people are a sea, 
roiling, calm
life giving and as dangerous

Over those faded waters
receding to the horizon
you looked out
…and smiled.

For you, too, were a man
of the desert.  And you carried with you
its golden sun. 

Yet you knew the cold silence
of stones, that
only stones know how
to stop movement, 
stop sound.
You knew the Place of the Dead
where your father’s bones lay
breathless, soundless

and with the weight of
worlds, they pulled quiet to quiet

You knew
the owlish open eyes
of emperors
All seeing, all open
And your outline, hunted for,
in that ancient dark

But you had died
long ago in the desert
Old eyes and desert sun
tanned skin, wrinkled and thin
sang over you
the song of life coursed through
Your veins
Darkness may yet be walked through
and death, but a doorframe

Over the Mediterranean sea
Your eyes met dark for dark
and glittered, triumphant




Even when something is fully decided — it is not decided.  Those teeming masses who come at the problem from every angle may not have read the message, that is, the synopsis of so many earnest men in robes.  The masses gather from bywaters, from towns— talking of grain prices and the Roman roads. The weather and their politics.  And on the other hand, the sophisticates, they knew, perhaps too well, what had been decided and how.  Some stood, listening with one ear, on the edges of great conversations, but with the other they overheard talk of rises to power, petty decisions, hierarchies, and who would succeed whom— all of the small discussions that have been washed away, like their robes and their hair and their jewels, with the dust of time. 


Background information:

St. Athanasius' life was hunted by four Roman emperors, and he spent about seventeen years of his life in exile. On one occasion, it is said he was forced to hide in his father's tomb for four months.  Another story from his life comes from an occasion when he was pursued by the Emperor's ships on the Nile and there was a great deal of fog.  Athanasius decided to double back on the Emperor's ships, and when they asked if he had seen Athanasius, it is said that he replied, "Yes, he is very near!" Athanasius was also present at the famous council of Nicea, and the Athanasian creed-- considered to be a distilliation of basic Christianity-- is named for him. 

To inquire about the availability of this painting, please visit the area of this site for collectors.