“Prisoner’s cinema” is the term given to visual hallucinations reported by prisoners confined to dark cells and by others kept in darkness for long periods of time.

Lit by a million specks of light,
all your dust turns holy.
What’s rotten in you burns

and burns. You, a shadow-
you, gone glowing
Catherine wheel, a spoked

gloaming. You know lead can lodge
into an animal’s skull, turn
the skull into a lit temple

of its wanderings, and this is how
you understand the fabled bowl
a saint carries, its hollow lit

by the eyes it cradles and the saint
eyeless and God-filled. You are not
eyeless and God is nowhere

to witness how you become
the wheel and the body it breaks,
a spectacle of light you cannot fathom

until you fathom it—flooded
as you are with shadow, darkness
taut as an animal’s shank

until it ripples at your touch. Pools
in the bowl your hands make.
Then breaks.

Francesco del Cossa (Ferrarese, c. 1436 - 1477/1478 ), Saint Lucy, c. 1473/1474, tempera on poplar panel, Samuel H. Kress Collection 1939.1.228

Susannah Nevison

Susannah Nevison is the author of Lethal Theater (The OSU Press, 2019), and Teratology (Persea Books, 2015). In the Field Between Us, a collaborative poetry collection with Molly McCully Brown, is forthcoming from Persea Books in 2020. Her work has recently appeared in The New York Times, Tin House, and Blackbird, among other publications. She teaches creative writing at Sweet Briar College in Virginia, where she lives with her husband and their two dogs.