Wednesday, December 8, 2010

2010.12.08 A Poem a Day

A poem a day is as good as a prayer a day, an apple a day, a great work of art or a cartoon a day to keep you centered, laughing and dizzy with awe.

These are the sensory nourishments that keep our hearts alive and deliver faith, hope and love, the staples of spirituality and open-circled religion.

by Glenn Shea

There among the aisles and chapels

it still goes on, the old life,

amidst the medieval racket

of post cards and sacred crockery,

the gabbled cloud of foreign tongues

and people peering at dark corners;

the old life persists, mostly among the old;

the woman leaning to kiss the Virgin's brocaded hem;

the murmur of the devout; white candles

and the clink of francs in the mission box.

A boy of eighteen knelt before the altar,

his face hid in his hands, the muddle

of the life outside pursuing him here as well.

For gems, the painted glass, and for choirs

the figures carved in stone;

Chartres stood their sketch of Paradise,

the place where, as best it could on earth,

time stopped. It was to be,
as an arch gives stone the power of flight,

the place where faith would give

the clay of flesh its flight,
a semblance 
whose stones would tug the heart towards prayer,

build in it the desiring of heaven.

I saw the boy again. At the west door,

beneath the rose of the Judgment,

he met a friend and took him to the font.

He put his fingertips in the holy water

and with them dripping made the sign of the cross

on the body of his friend:

touched his forehead first, the flat of his chest,

the left shoulder, then the right, and last

the slight swell of his belly.

The other in turn, fingers wetted,

touched the forehead of his friend,
the chest,
left shoulder and right shoulder

and belly. They turned to go,

the bead mark of water on their brows.

And when I knelt before the altar,

I prayed: abject as any man is

in the weight of his faults, scanted

of hope, but who had seen at least the image

of what he desired: another like himself,

whose flesh he might inscribe 

with the water of blessing.

"Chartres" by Glenn Shea, from Find a Place That Could Pass for Home. © Salmon Poetry, 2010. Reprinted with permission.

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