The Holy Dove Was Moving, Too

 

i.

You, boy, listen.  You open doors,

it isn’t coming from there, no, not

from there, either, it isn’t on the stairs

on in the wallpaper, it’s not in your

father’s chair.  You check the beebox,

but it is humming, a honeycreeper,

it isn’t their thrumming he hears.  You go so far

as to ask the crowkeeper if you may stand

near the great carceral.  And there is sound

there, but it is more like a vesper,

and what you seeks is a whimper.

No, that’s the wrong word.  You are

searching for the source of the whisper.

 

ii.

You pray without ceasing, in time

with your cardinal heart beating.  Your

brothers are rioting, your mother is sleeping,

you have no scriptorium, no cell, you would

hide behind the altar curtain, crawl

into the reliquary, anything for some

privacy.  In families, chaos is a human

right, and you are just

a mendicant who dreams you

are the silent anchorite.  Silly, really,

the arc light of God that shines

meadow bright in your head, day and night.

You come from a family of thinkers, after all

of cynics and empiricists and drinkers.

 

iii.

For years after the catechumen, the baptism,

the chrism, your time as a postulate, your ordination,

you lie face down on the stone floor, you’ve found

your vocation.  Poverty, chastity, obedience, the daily

unchanging, arising in darkness, asceticism, renunciation,

this is your sacred calling.  The ringing bell, the Prime,

the Terce, the Angelus, the Sext.  You find plaintive

joy in the Vespers, a deep ecstatic lamenting, Matins

of the Dead, and you read, you light the lamps, take

your meager meals.  You hold true to the Office of the

Lady, but have given your soul to the Libera

me:  requiem, requiescat, mercy, mercy, viaticum.

 

iv.

You pace the grounds even in winter, channeling

a path near the stone wall.  Not all, certainly not all

of it is troubling you, but you are troubled, it isn’t

like you, you are the silent jubilant, peace-filled

supplicant, ecce homo.  When did you become

a fossarian, the clergyman moonlighting as a

gravedigger?  Why do you carry the hearsecloth,

why do you go down each night into the undercroft

and press your face into your black cloth cassock,

as if it were embroidered in flames and marked

your condemnation?  This is not an Inquisition.

And yet nightly you go down, and you lean against

the vaults, and you do not move.  You do not

move.  You hear the dark train pull into the

transubstantiation, and you still believe in

everything you swore.  Nonetheless, you reach

up blindly and pull the misericord.

 

v.

Who are your dead?  Not your family,

they are shadows to you now, although

you recall both hilarity and tragedy, and

you are bound to them.  Not your faith,

or your love of the magnificat, the mysterium

tremendum – you are still unhinged with awe,

ubiquitarian:  for you, Divinity is everywhere.

How did it happen, and when?  Was it

that moment last spring, the sky so fair,

when you stood before the cherry tree

and watched the pink blossoms let go

and sail free?  Was it the moment the tree

became not nature but Thou, fully actual

and real?  And the spirit entered you:

verticality, the horizontal wall that spared

you profanity, the slight hill that held

the tree, and the light – if you could just

keep it, freeze it somehow.  Now do you know?

It wasn’t your heart that betrayed you,

it was beauty, that sky, your eyes.

 

vi.

Your dead are attending a dance

at the home of the Misses Morkan,

a waltz is played, concluded, Gabriel

is preoccupied with a speech he will give

at the table.  He remembers something

he wrote in a review, One feels that one

is listening to thought-tormented music.

Old friends talk, as they do, and debate

whether Caruso was the greatest tenor,

and a goose is carved and dinner is served,

and you remember reading the story

the first time, how long it took you

to realize what was happening, how grief

unwraps itself in our most lovely distractions.

The whole of the story, the history

of a loving marriage is contained in a single

image, a woman standing half in shadow

on a staircase, listening to a man singing.

Your dead are everyone who waltzed that evening,

and Michael Furey, the delicate boy

with the clear boy’s voice, and his eyes,

and his illness, and how he died for love.

And Gabriel, standing at the window knowing

finally, that the snow is general all over Ireland.

Requiem, requiescat, Joyce, viaticum.

 

vii.

You have gone astray, and not in any usual way

but by falling in love with fencerows and daylight,

lines underscoring Being itself, and images cause you

to remember yourself:  how it all used to be the same,

the novels of Faulkner were no different than the tale

told by a swirl of starlings rising from a tree,

your passion for photography, a boy who searched

for the taproot of reality.  It was the world

whispering to you on that day; not the still,

small voice we haven’t heard and never will.

You are drunk now on beauty; art is your whiskey,

your moveable feast, and you will ride away,

you will find the way, Whiskey Priest,

to trade your shroud for sublimity.

The power and the glory are not your measure.

Your genius and your luck intertwine:

All you have to do is wake up, and open your eyes,

and there is the divine, your sacrament, your treasure.

Published on October 25, 2008 at 1:25 am  Leave a Comment  

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