Poem for the new year

2009

They say in a cathedral everything transforms:
God to ghost, pain to prayer, the wounds divine.
Even the gargoyles scrub watermarks in their spare time.
Two atheists walk into a cathedral,
and what? Knocked around
by enough rose windows and psalms
any cast bell can get giddy,
and sure I’m vaulting today but not where they tell me to go.
It’s the hushed voices—praise but also who’s hungry, who’s bored—
I want to listen to, amplified by limestone so even the quietest get heard.
I want to remember these faces lifted to admire the moon rock in the window:
glass-dappled, blue and red beneath the hoops and small stars,
the light of this world pouring through.

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One response to “Poem for the new year

  1. It’s funny how cathedrals seem to inspire as much awe in the unreligious and the irreligious as they do in the religious. There’s a beautiful church on my walk to work. There are so many startling aspects of it: how it seems huge yet is smaller than the drab apartment buildings on either side; the beauty of such familiar architectural pieces as columns and a vast, shallow dome; and the use of deep, grey stone, which invariably lends a gravity of purpose to the building.

    You capture this underlying gravity: “the wounds divine,” that magical equation by which religion transfigures suffering into art; “the light of this world pouring through,” the quietness that follows awe, the sense of living presently, the anticlimax of returning to what I am tempted to call our “other” lives.

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