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(The Cloisters, Upper Manhattan, May)

This capital I’m gazing at

resolves into a cat-faced Devil --

he’s just swallowed a soul.

His thin smile spans a limestone block

where frog-eyed minions prod roped sinners

towards roaring flames of Hell.

One’s upside down -- kicked shanks trail

round the corner, ready to be hurled.

Meanwhile a medieval square of

daffodils and gentians bobs

softly in a breeze that brushes

their living carpet, sighing

through potted orange trees

and sun-splashed colonnades.

Ease, buttressed by sandstone

certainty: a riot of petaled

flares and stars where terrors

of Below are checked by chiseled

images -- Its snarling beasts

faith-tamed. Watching streaked sparrows

twitter down to sip at fountains

salvaged from old convents at Bonnefont

or Cux, I finish off my baguette crust

and contemplate grave courtesies

that nodding lavender and rose

still offer up in stained-glass hues,

defying these less hallowed times

upon their sward of grass.

Version first published inWhat Rough Beast (June 12, 2019)

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