Voyages from I to Thou.

Location: Skellig Michel, Ireland

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Courtly Love (Nov. 30, 2004)

Even as the great cathedrals
rose across the face of Europe,
you were quietly and patiently
assembling the song which
tore them down, stone by
timber by relic bone,
inside our hearts. Those
huge doors opening onto
naves which ached the
height of faith, the lurid
rose window surely
the size of God's own face:
the cathedrals were
houses of the spirit's
yearning, fraught with
awe and terror. Yet a song
about a waylaid kiss filled
some greater space with
such desire that every shore
in this wet world could not
begin to frame that saltier
ache with even a name.
Those cathedrals spiralling
up from so many towns
may truly have just been
nails to hold a soul in place
that had awakened to
the wings of song. So
much of that music
seems so foolish today--
an IRA of groomed terrorists
waging war on hearth
and home--men guessing
wrongly that women
desired the same way
they do--those sweet eyes
of knights fixed not on
beloveds but Love as they
sang together the sweet
refrains, mounting horses
in raw first light to
plunge their awful lances
through each other's
skin and bone. Foolish
such devotion to an
effervescent gauze
of gardens and betrayed
beds, of scented kerchiefs
and devout so lonely tears.
Yet of such ephemera
you won the tiny votive
those monstrous cathedrals
were built to house,
rending those leviathans
of pious stone so cold
and ghostly, an ediface
of laws for damning souls
that long had washed
your way. Their bells
still toll across the towns
that old and hollow sound.
But when you smile and walk
away those churches are
all drowned to gleam down
under in such saintly rows,
their hells and heavens
shrunk in a song
to the margins of your breasts.
And me here rowing
ever towards them
in a poem that never
requites or rests.


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