This is how he lived, with a messianic faith in his uniqueness.
Every parishioner he touched, he became. This was mostly
to the good. Gracious and stiff with his hand
on the burgomaster’s cloak. Pedantic and disappointed
when slipping the body of Christ onto a righteous tongue.
But then a whoreson dog gave him carbuncles and a flaming ass
and the hog he swallowed left him feeling botched and flayed.
He thought fit to drink some medicine and vomit up his disease,
then had it purged out from below, submitted to burning, then cutting.
This is how he lived, the Bishop of Bamberg, who sent his flock
to wait in line at Lourdes while he directed himself to the profane
waters of Karlsbad, then Kissingen. He thought he was curing the pig;
the pig was curing him. The Bishop knew full well that it is not matter
that defines life. Process, such as energy flow, does. An entire man,
he felt all his needs by turns—touching each creature in his ken,
its needs were his—and took nothing as an equivalent for life
but the fullness of living itself. He was utterly carefree
in his efforts to elude death, choosing the diameter and density
of the metal rod for his own hand, saw it attached to comb-like spikes.
Now, turn the handle that spins the glass cylinder against a silk
swatch to make a charge. It makes a charge. He smokes. He lives.
Tom Thompson is the author of Live Feed, The Pitch, and the forthcoming Strike Through. He lives and works in New York City.
“The Bishop of Bamberg” was originally published in Flight (TLR, Winter 2015)