Santa Maria Antiqua
The church’s apse is cool and cavernous.
It hollows out the space between my ribs
In its own likeness. Deep to deep, we stand.
A fresco towers on the wall: Mounted
On sturdy shoulders rests a solid disc
Of gold. But time, the great iconoclast,
Has pulverized the face and left it blank.
Still, kneeling here before the faded feet
Of my redacted savior, I can feel
His uncorrupted image stamped across
The empty cavity behind my chest
As if reflected off the painted stone.
And when these bones are ground back into dust,
The Man depicted on them still won’t fade.
-- 'Santa Maria Antiqua' first appeared in the Anglican Theological Review.
Love Song of the True Vine
I heard these words:
‘I am the melody, you are the riff on me.
I the theme, you variation, and child,
My father is jazz itself.’
I heard a voice:
‘Hail! and rejoice,
Highly favored one,
Music has been with thee,
Don’t be afraid.
'Open your body and take on my outline.
Bear me, declare me:
And you are the flesh.
‘See: I sink down my roots in you.
As I am, so you do.
Dwell here and see how within me is singing forever;
I am the mansion of rooms without number;
You are the corner, as yet unexplored.’
Music came from his hand. Up, down, left, right:
He touched the air at four points, from which sprang
Chords of blood and water, milk and honey.
The choir saw his gesture and pronounced:
Je. Su. Chris. Te. Up, down, left, right. I heard,
And my hand moved as well: head, gut, heart, chest.
Two lines: one incision from heaven down,
One across the earth. And as there, so here,
The veil was torn again forever. Clothed
In jeans and glory, in time and out of
Time, the choir stood, fallen, and they sang.
Blessed are you when I split your foundations;
Blessed is my gale when it hurls down your walls.
When I scorch your fields you are blessed in the fire;
When I pulverize you, you are blessed.
Sacred and scarred is the man I have chosen;
Bruised and bent double by my blessed blows.
Flattened his towers and barren his country;
Swept from the earth are his home and his plans.
Sing when you find yourself exiled and friendless;
Rejoice in defiance when crippled in pain.
Mine is breath your oppressors are breathing;
My hand will break them, and with them your chains.
Now, blessed is the broken when I do the breaking —
Like bread, like my body. I claim what is torn.
Build from the remnants of what I have shattered;
O see: what withstands me will live evermore.
From the Hollywood Cliffs
‘ . . . nor ever chaste, except You ravish me.’
(Donne, Holy Sonnet 14)
My lover pours the hillsides out before me
Every morning, like a mound of gemstones
Tumbling from the chambers of the sky.
His carpet, table, robe: a lavish spread
And solemn invitation richly draped,
Festooned with houses, tapestried with trees.
I am adulterous with my own self,
My heart addicted to the sticky wine
Of small resentments. What would it be like
To turn this mountain corner unprepared,
Be ravished by this freshly laden vista
Sweeping inwards as it opens out?
What freefall would it be to acquiesce
To this seduction, and my yes mean yes?