God Stuff –brent mitchell

Idolatry

He listens to his breath and waits
until he feels the surge,
and waits
until it finds his tongue,
perches there,
and preens
to fly.

Looking out, he sees the distant city shimmer,
and turning to the
uncomprehending faces, hesitates.
The faces stretch out beyond the day
Into countless evenings and mornings
of incomprehension.
“Love your enemies” he says,
“do good to them which hate you; Bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you. And unto him that smiteth thee on the one cheek offer also the other…”
Further out across the day, beyond the uncomprehending faces,
Constantine painted his incongruous crosses.
Cathedrals rose tentatively like delicate foals
from scree of toppled marble columns and leveled groves.
Beyond them, naked boys leaped from cakes to please the Sadian Pope
beneath the extended hands of God and Adam.
Faces filled the plain
dotted only here and there with ironic points of light.
Like wheat grains,
a pixilated swarm of appetites loomed
against the planet’s curve;
and beyond them
stood a man.
Across the long-stretched day,
Jesus called to him:
“Hey you– sit down over there and be quiet!”
But the man could hear nothing over his own pugnacious barking.
Echoing messianic hopes subverted from the cross,
Patrick Henry’s baying and growling rose and swirled into the street
and fell. A passing horse urinated on it.
It dried in the sun
until the wind gathered it again
and carried it aloft for miles upon miles
to stick at last to sweat dripping from John Wolman’s nose.
Wolman shrugged imperceptibly,
sitting in the heat
as Quakers do among their kind,
listening to cicadas, and to the blowing, harnessed horses.
Men in stodgy suits and broad brimmed hats,
and women in long dresses and starched bonnets sat,
sweating in the sweltering, humid noon
in the shade of a stifling barn.
Then,
through the high, hay door
a mockingbird condescended
to perch above them on a cross-beam
–imperious
admonishing all
with his ingenious song.

Prayer
Lord of Life,
when the tedious white light of our desolation
burns our words to dust, subjugates will and chance,
and even the sun is a hovering scavenger–
and when night is the eclipse of black wings that stalk us, we praise you.
For the eternally returning summers of remembered time, we praise you.
For this honey that spills from the sun to guild our children’s laughter,
for the emerald rush of lush arboreal exhalations, for the scent of rain before it falls,
for firefly glow and flash enfolded in the salvific refuge of memory, we praise you.

Cellophane wrappers lift,
in noxious wakes of trucks to sparkle and drift
like butterflies over urban waste.

Past windows of oblivious drivers
strapped down and locked into speeding cars,
summer wheat rolls and arcs like flashing waves, arcs like a paring knife to slice the moon,
like a lover’s spine or a lily calyx—full-stretched and trembling to be taken,
like lips that smile in silent praise of gifts
already given to the tree of memory—
even as its leaves are falling
and the refuge of memory gives way
to the refuge of oblivion.
We praise you .
We thank you for the things of this world –
neither cursed nor corrupted—we thank and praise you, Lord
for the common things
with which you bestow such Beauty
as can outshine despair

Cathedrals
Written after walking around Koln Cathedral in Germany. Giant pillars of a Roman Temple over which the cathedral was built are piled next it. I was told by someone there that before the Roman temple, a giant sacred grove had stood there.

High above a stony nave
broadly paved in mossy roots
moonlight rent a chancel screen of mist,
and fractal stems interlaced
like hands in prayer.
Canticle leaf-rush rang down the burdened canopy
Prefiguring echo of organ and choir,
as did singing flocks as morning came
to the sun-dappled lofts of the swaying dome.
Earnest prayers in the priestly tongue of wolves rose entwined from
shadowed wooded transepts.
Censor smoke of mushroom spores ascended in broken light,
And leaves dripped dewy liturgies of morning-praise.

As the living groves were leveled, the old gods fled.
And looking back they were bewildered
To see them rebuilt with such meticulous care
in mute, ironic stone.

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