Cathedral

By Leslie Contreras Schwartz

Enter under the ribbed
vaulting, holding up
the pointed arch
girded by rigid piers
and those brave half-fallen buttresses.

I’m not there. No Gothic cathedral
in my heart.

Inside, not in the nave, the grand
rounded apse, or the light
coming through fractured glass
into the aisle, its pattern hungry for the sacred.
Not the broken pattern of sun
set on the floor.

Instead, I’m in the accident of wings—
look up, in the tower, black shudder and flight
and the light disturbed,
shifting on the faces of saints and martyrs

that darkening in the stone laid by the hands of slaves
and laborers, in the blessed display
made by their sun-deepened
palms, sweat. Poverty in their bodies
which did not keep them from making,
building, carrying one large rock onto another.

Each stone a high chorus of voices
that cannot die: Hoc est corpus meum.

The cashier hands me a sack of food—
black curl around her temple.

The woman and her brow
in the restaurant kitchen—
the back of her hand
wiping forehead.

No need to insert hungry
repetitions and pursuit of godliness
in the carving of men’s faces.

Which is the house
to which I direct prayer
and give thanks? Faces
in the turret that have never
been drawn, the relief
of their likeness carved inside
stone’s voice.

Am I there? Under your feet?

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