En tering from the glare
Of the mid-monling traffic, we assume
Our lily-bordered pew; our eyes
Gradually grow familiar with the gloom.
I recognize that dais
Branching with candles as the stage, the smiles
Exchanged between the carved and living face,
That altar tapestry's archaic zeal
Of harvest, and at the crowd's
Slow scything at the knee, I kneel.
Knowing I am a guest in the Lord's house,
I seal my sense in darkness to admit
That moment where irreconcilables knit
'in a white rose, shaped from the soldiery
which, with His own blood, Christ hath made His spouse.
I press my forehead hard on the scarred pews,
Wrestle with prayer and fail. I t is no use.
In any church my brain is a charred vault
Where demons roost, A blackened, shifting dust.
A kyrie shrills, hysterical as the ghost
Of a dead marriage in the ear. Nothing is real,
Through my own fault, through my most grievous fault.
And nothing swarms the sight
Until the choir, altering its mood,
Proclaims the bride. The bride. To its diapason,
Between banked lilies and the hallowed stone,
A crystal of calm blood,
Sails her veiled body evenly as the swan,
White as Ophelia on the black flood.
We too are actors, who behold
This ceremony; we hold
Our breath, defying dissolution,
Faith, we were told, like art,
Feeds on illusion.
Through the illusion of another life,
I can observe this custom like a ghost,
Watching the incense snaking overhead
Dissolving like the wafer laid
In wine along the tongue,
Hearing their promise buried in this vault,
Their lines drowned in the surges of a song.
Yet whether faith or custom matters most,
In each the private tragedy is lost.
Faith is as virginal as every bride,
Custom the church from which I am divorced
Because of pride, because of grievous pride.