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In Medias Res

posted: 5/27/2011

(from the collection Always Be Madly In Love, selected poems from 1988-2010, available at Amazon)

Through a small fogless gap in the transom
He peers at the Cathedral's heavenly spire
Gaining but a glimpse of its tip
A Pisgah Sight of his bride
The big rock doll
The majestic edifice
One hundred years old
And still underway
Almost there almost

He has watched the mundane progress
Of construction begun before his birth
Watched as a child from far hillsides
And then as visionary sculptor
Slithering with his chisel along her fissures
Always in love with her like a woman
Caressing corners like they had gender
Exercising the privileges of his presence
Being an artist all over and up inside her
Helping half of her happen
But she isn't his to finish

Lately he has felt the slow slowly slowing slower
The certainly incomplete
He'll be dead before she's done
He knows that
He has always known that
Before the steeple gets her last graven story
Before her triumphant jubilation
Before her cross is crowned
Before the bell is hung and tolled
She isn't his to finish

Having sculpted slavishly
Those muscular demonstrations
Upon and into and out of the church's facade
Having coaxed brash biblical ideas
From the justified masonry
Since he was eighteen
Having waited over extra winters
For the right procession of sunbeams
Having drunk enough to understand
Having loved enough to really know

Now at seventy
Having dedicated most of existence
To the peopling of the living stone
To ecstatic melancholy pillars
To infinitely concussive bas-reliefs
To the verily inspired basilica
Begun even before he began
Decidedly he should rest
She isn't his to finish no

He arrived in the very middle
Will depart still there
In the very middle
And this is reality he thinks
For everybody
We arrive in medias res
We inhabit the very middle
The beginning and the end
Have no need of us

But at least I have taken part he prides
I have added to the glory yes
Though I did not participate
In the basis of her making
In the laying of the foundation
And though I will not contribute
To the final flourish
To the whirled conclusion
I have helped make half of her happen
I am in full significance
Among the outward squalls

Indeed he is as a kiss on a ledge of the building
Looking out to sea from the pitch of his prison
Looking out through cracks at stars upon the sea
Where proud tombs swell unseen
The heartless trap soon sprung
Another subject yanked from generous coma
Bevy of swarming fears
Driven to the battery of extremes
Under an offended monarch
A king afraid to face real religion

All of that fine work
Truly his majesty and highness
How could that possibly
All of that broken streak
How could that possibly
All of that highness and miracle
All of that great fixation
How could that possibly
All of that genuine expression
How could that possibly offend
As it did

But it did

And alas today the offense is avenged
Awaiting now the steps of the priest
The smell of the executioner's oily fingers
Not despising the nemesis
Who has come to gloat early before dawn
A face behind a candle

This is reality he keeps thinking
For everybody
And he goes to it wishfully
The unfinishing artist
Led from the dungeon to the gallows
Led to death in its ever freshness
Received into eternal wonder
Into full significance
Among the outward squalls
Almost there almost
Received thus unto eternal wonder