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POETRY I BY ROBERT PHILLIPS ON THE DESTRUCTION OF THE TWO BARBERINI TAPESTRIES, CATHEDRAL CHURCH OF ST. JOHN the DIVINE For over 350 years The Last Supper and The Resurrection survived moths, mildew, thieves, the poisonous air of The Old World and then the New. They immigrated from Italy to hang forty feet above the Cathedral’s interior in upper Manhattan. The stone transept was dark, they were hard to discern. “Rather neglected,” according to a Curator from The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Then flames vaulted all forty feet, illuminating Jesus and the Twelve, their faces glowing like the saints making incandescent the risen Christ. It took thirteen years to create them, a fraction of a morning to destroy. Covetously fire converted baroque threads into char, shreds. IMAGINARY FRIENDS In first grade I was positive there were furry creatures called tisathees. Every morning we intoned, “My country tisathee, sweet land of liberty…” In Sunday school we were instructed an angel told Joseph to take Mary and the child and flee into Egypt. I asked, “What happened to the flea?” I crayoned a picture of haloed Joseph, Mary and Baby Jesus in back of a plane. In the cockpit was Pontius the Pilot. I titled it, “The Flight to Egypt.” For a decade I dreamed of a nubile farm girl, Wendy Moon. Kate Smith crooned her abundant charms: “Wendy Moon comes over the mountain…” At Christmastime when we caroled away I had a new friend, a portly monk Round John Virginas in “Round John Virgin, Mother and Child…” South Pacific I thought a musical about a genial couple, Sam and Janet. Didn’t Ezio Pinza sing, “Sam and Janet evening, you will find a stranger…?” You’d think there was an end to this. but even in high school I attended graduation ceremonies convinced I was Where are they now, my imaginary friends? I miss good old Sam and Janet, mysterious tisathees, victorians, Wendy Moon, Pontius the Pilot, and of course the flea. ROBERT PHILLIPS lives and teaches in Houston. He is the author or editor of some 30 books and has been widely honored for his work. Naomi Shihab Nye SEPTEMBER 21, 2007 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 23