St. Etienne, France, 1213

Constructing a Cathedral:
St. Etienne, France, 1350 A.D.  
 
Arms and legs a jumble of moving sticks,    
the workers swarm like flies around the rearing pile,
hardly heeding screams of those who fall from
flimsy scaffolds, of those bruised and crushed
shoving and lifting cyclopean chunks of stone,  
impounding space vast enough to hold a town,
walls high enough to hint within the gloom
of vaulted ceilings the frowning face of God.
 
But lofty holes gaudy as chests of gems
give light enough so men can paint on walls
devils forking screaming figures into flaming pits,
seraphim boosting others to Easter-egg cerulean;
and  placed around the  grim perimeter,
pin-cushioned with arrows, roasted on spits,
wooden martyrs, curiously bland of face —
 
as is behind the altar the Major Martyr, the one
for whom these drudges get upon their knees,
heads bent, calloused palms together, broken men
hanging on Him who hangs by His bleeding palms,
 
and on His go-between as well, the stately one
who stands above them, attired in splendid robes,
soft-handed, portly,  equipped with Book and Censer,
chanting mystic cryptograms to show thereby
that this amazing colossus, this incredible hulk
made with hammers, chisels and lives, was a thing
so huge, so seemingly beyond human endeavor,
that only the Greatest of Conjurers can claim it,
 
and the ragged conjurers themselves, groveling within it,
are awed into reverence by their own props.

(2011)

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