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Friday, July 23, 2010

Saint Nicholas

How do they call you,
those who’ve passed through unmarked
twin doors for the shy
side of one century?

Is it as Nicholas
of Myra,
or of Bari,
or as an unlocated saint,
working wonders in
this home of trim white-stone
block, with three tiers of black-
arches, frowning up at
the merciless
grids behind?

Rows, rows, rows, they float
on glassy, steel-blue oceans,
and these oceans will fall in
violent,
cascading,
millennial
waves unlike any with foam
caps that once lapped
the rocky coast of lost Lycia--
your see
our maps don’t contain,
and our licit hosannas won’t reach.

Who are they?
Who pray here?
Bakers,
sailors,
bankers,
all whose sighs
rise with the torrent of immigrant chants
liaison rafters
fracture in echo-song,
the old coinage that plies your favor.

To which patron can they turn
when your cross crowns not
the work of masons
but one day’s
rubble,
a tongueless bell,
the charred
relics of unnameable acts?


This week at Big Tent Poetry, Carolee Sherwood suggests we use a favorite poem. Often, when I get stuck, I'll return to a work I admire for inspiration and perhaps an idea on how to move forward. That was the case for the above piece, which is the second of three that I hope to recite at a friend's upcoming art exhibition. The poem that helped me with it was The Hollow Men by T.S. Eliot.
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