Sunday, January 31, 2021

Requiem for a Gothic Spire (Notre Dame)

Lying beside the navy River Seine

was the gate of the Lady of Heaven;

her warm Madonna smile was bread leaven

to all who loved her son’s essential vein.

There was no forged crucible with blood stained

hands, without being pierced by his brethren,

for he was one of us; we were forgiv’n

by his very heart despised, sapphire reign.

There—a ring of unending gold as fire,

a melodious sound came from the wood

of relinquished cross, now crucified stone

played on the third morn as a fragrant lyre

of old, the pages were turned as we would

in the valley of a prophet’s dead bones.


What word would speak and raise the spire to sky;

what hope would glisten as the morning dew?

There was a church that blazed its colours true,

linen crevices were indigo dyed

and hailing from Europe, the prayer would rise

that from a deity drew kingdoms new,

to rest upon the heads of saints glass-blue,

quiet patience and perseverance tried.

I would repeal the curse that rests bereft

beneath my hand, for I the ink and quill

that wrote each word of the scriptures was one

that stood in souls of time with my request.

I would not break or violate your will

lest you asking lack something, come undone.


The organ thundered out, we lift our chant

within Our Lady’s alabaster stone,

with rushing river by the island’s moan;

the true living remnant would not recant.

Brilliant prairie grasses of Miscanthus,

Pennisetum, Stipa, with flowers grown

as Echinacea and Achilleas’ throne.

The iron of this sanctuary rusts

its bounty in the hearts of those who sing,

their low carol carried o’er the threshold

where other flowers tarry due nearby

and their waxen perfume unyielded stings.

But the brocaded ceilings were of gold,

and song's sound mingled with the tears and cries.


A flame towered in the dark, its blood spurts

with a vice of midnight, now dying blade

that from a steel sword swiftly did away

with all mild dissidence and fear of hurt.

We were no more, we leaned and grandly cursed

the ground we had once walked upon, in sways

of lowly field, and revelled lovely-made

from vestments of the air that saline pursed

the tide upon the beach of Paris’s front.

She was wont to be wearing red, silence

brought tidings of her reputation forth;

she was a queen of the night, took the brunt

of their insults to death. Knights took violence

from strangers of other realms to gain worth.


There was a hint of burning cinder there,

beyond cathedral’s levelled paradigm;

there was the sound of sun and moon resigned

where pigeons roost in alcoves of star air.

What were their last words as these silver stairs

filled with smoke from some guilty humankind;

a glass of lemon water with the rind

sat on the old wood table with no care.

There was no fault, no blame in stone was set,

no blinding flame has seared our coral minds—

their deep porous thoughts, staid with minerals.

But now our hearts, reduced to ash, are met

with dark realities of other kinds,

the Gothic spire was once ethereal.


Not one pale stone was left upon the next,

and so no crucified corpse remained there,

there was no evidence in dragon’s lair,

only an ashen kind remembers text

from a burned down Bible’s vast lexicon.

If I was to pour pure oil in my hair,

the fruit of virgin olive break and tear;

the black circle from its branch, comely vexed,

would be on coming out with pearl drop glass.

The poorest girl would now hit the high notes

and circle as a falcon, bird of prey,

for you thought to make them victims of class,

you hoped they would try calling you, emote,

and fiery burned them to the ground that day.


To raise the dead from every ladened curse,

the gargoyles, covered with soot from the fire,

return to the oak of youth’s golden spire,

remember the covenant you made first:

to love no other but me, lest you thirst

and drink of another cistern, you tire—

the level of purity I require,

too difficult for anyone but Christ.

So he will be your prize, your figurehead,

he will be set on high, and in the rocks

of hellish night, where burns your soulish branch.

There entered not one tree to this blood-red

rose, just a child came by with blond dreadlocks,

swung under a Maritime Pine, then blanched.

Emily Isaacson

Photo used by permission: Armstreet Clothing Company