IN SUNLIGHT, IN A BEAUTIFUL GARDEN
(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 ruined 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.
First published in What Rough Beast (June 12, 2019)