Thursday, November 6, 2014

the flattening of the basilica

At nine am the bells begin their task,
summoning the sleepy parish out
of their indolent beds,
into the misty warmth of Sabbath day.
A carillon inaugurates our pasch,
In the incense of the dewy dawn,
the chimes begin to pray.
Startled out of sleep by frisky taylors,
we shake ourselves from sleep as sparrows cry.

At nine am the tenors began their task,
their rings demanding all of us to come,
and listen as your music seeps into
the warm flush of the Sunday morn.
We witness as your sharp words vanish
exhaled into spider-web fan vaults,
which echo with your words evaporated,
vanished with your grandma's choir loft.
Our speech, which once had been so vertical,
hazarding heights of heady poetry
has crumbled into something dry and brittle,
like carpet in the shrouded baptistry.

Where once it entered in the sanctuary,
it lingers in the nave, thwarted.
Where once it boldly fashioned liturgy,
it sits, idling, on snoring lips, parted.
It cannot now unlatch our tabernacles,
Whose gold has molded into more
pedestrian lacquers, for simpler times:
our holy of holies, guarded by a plain oak door

Before, the liturgies we sung were sung
accompanied by infants' grating cries
as if the singers--we--had found ourselves among
angelic hosts, invisible to our eyes,
but sweetly sensible to lisping tongues.
Thus, we cried with them our vagitus,
desperate attempts to sing beyond our ken
we clamored to the heights of language,
to where our angel songs,
with golden stained glass light, ascend.
To kingdoms sealed from us,
we demanded our rightful entrance,
to places where we were but alien,
we staked our turf, built our house on sand.

Into the somber rafters of the nave,
that dark heart of our firmament,
our chants and those of stars were blended,
with the word that we had hoped to save.
But everything that rises soon must fall;
So now I cannot hear your song at all.
Like chapels sterilized of the divine,
Your tongue is dry and brittle now as mine.

Like the carillon that never ceases,
your words echo, barren, in the nave,
disrupting orderly events like consecrations
and luminous rites of transubstantiation
which venture, daily, to transport our sorry words,
mere sacraments of fragile mortality,
into a language of more potent permanence.
But in our wooden chapels where we sought
our comfort we have lost,
nay, have slaughtered, our sweet immanence.
Soaring once, the fan vaults now have caved,
crumbling from the capital to the floor,
but the ruins whisper your lonely antiphon--
Our holy of holies guarded by a plain oak door

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