October 28, 2016 § Leave a comment
for far below
the war torn world
restless in its’ rages wore
the cape and crown of Ptolemy
even so long after his thoughts
circled the Sun and crashed
as comets on the shore.
just as ice
warms her bed
you become the tides
everchanging and though
low in the ether
there is a call
of life you are bound
to burn bright through
the heavens above welcome you
with endless black laced
open arms –
you’re to fall
to the gravity of this
pale blue dot.
If the setting Sun
would bend or break
your heart and your gaze
rest your eyes
a moon’s full depth
from all that lies ahead
as all things must pass.
are not the flame at the end
of a match, gunshot, or torch
you are a part apart
a way away
from the maelstrom
in cacophony on Earth
risen from what’s destined
And if the setting Sun
would bend or break
your heart or your gaze
rest your eyes
a moon’s full depth
from all that lies ahead
as all things must pass.
July 27, 2016 § 1 Comment
I was a monk at the abbey in Paris by the Place de la Concorde. We were under orders to keep watch over Cecile, one of the nieces of the local aristocracy. She was a beautiful girl, a brunette with curls that swung around her shoulders, eyes that blazed an auburn red, who often wore cream colored skirts that contrasted her tan flesh. From a young age she would dance about the streets as if they were gardens, sublimely blind to our troubled times.
Cecile was beautiful that way and we loved her then.
In her adolescence something deep inside her blessed soul changed. She lost the lightness in her step, and ceased the playful wandering in her path. She spoke no ill will when we observed her Confession, but we were certain something cancerous burdened Cecile.
One day she stopped by a fig tree outside the abbey. I watched from a balcony and saw her through the orchard. There was no evidence of her definite features, her face and breasts were obscured by a veil of leaves. There was no reason to stop, as it was early autumn and while green, the trees had given all their fruit.
I knew it was her though, we all knew her by the pace of her walk. And there I saw her heeled shoes, much gentler and simpler than the fashion popularized for decades by Madame de Pompadour. From a glimpse of her ankle I thought of the mound of her breast. Only the devil himself could have put that thought in my mind.
My tongue twitched, I spit and walked away.
From that day I wondered if she had seen me watching her. Our ways were much more subtle, yet altogether more thorough than my errant gazing. When she was schooled we were given report of everything she said and did. When she went to market, we had merchants provide us every detail of her daily ritual. Confession is a useful sacrament. Even when she bathed we were aware of her disguised efforts to defile herself!
It was September of 1787. Tensions were high in Paris.
We received special orders from the aristocrat to take in the girl for her protection, let us call him M. Legion. What happened next I have only heard as rumor, but I will add my own evidence of this terrible experience when appropriate.
Most heavenly father, forgive us.
Cecile entered our abbey as if possessed. She did not shout, but it seemed there was a tempest over her head. Her face contorted and her gaze was constantly broken as if she was in the eye of some unholy storm, swallowed by her halo, unable to return. We gave her room and board, and broke bread with her that evening. She muttered the evening prayer, though I’ve heard what came out of her mouth was pure blasphemy. She denied it.
As our abbey was covered in celestial darkness, the kind that only reveals what we need to see, the bell in our tower tolled midnight. At this time one last check was made of the guest rooms near our quarters. There Cecile was found missing. A young postulant was able to find her by the fig trees in distress. I have since contested that she was not trying to escape but rather in distress, and was going to a place of comfort. Nevertheless, when M. Legion was notified he was mortified and ordered her punishment.
Since she was found running away, M. Legion ordered her shoes be taken away. Cecile was taken to the basement, by the store-room, where there was an old stone well dug into the dirt. There she had to be forced to kneel before our most senior friars, and her wrists were bound to the well. When she didn’t respond to their pleas for clarification of her misdeeds, she was determined to be possessed by Lucifer and his minions. They kept her bound and used a cane to strike her bare feet.
Her minuscule yelps, hollow cries for help reached my quarters through centuries of stone, suddenly sullied by what I knew were the resounding cries of many more before her.
The next day she appeared obedient throughout the morning. Perhaps the Sun helped her to wake her from that terrible tempest around her head. I watched her during mass. Her prayers were clear. Her voice unwavering. I could read her lips without effort as those words became an extension of us over time. Though she was clearly reciting the Word of God, her voice was still hollow from the previous night. I prayed that He heard the cries that still echoed deep inside her.
It is the duty of a monk to remain faithful, even if all hope is gone.
After confession Cecile was taken to her room and given the sacred sacrament of communion. There the unbelievable happened, as the body of Christ touched her tongue she took it in for just a moment… and then spit it out! They say that she then spoke loudly for the first time since in our possession, stating, “He defiled me!”
M. Legion was visiting that night, so he was brought to see the girl. He was a tall man with broad shoulders. His hair and beard were the color of walnut, dark and full. He dressed simply for an aristocratic man, but his tastes were difficult to be satisfied and so were his many reasons for visiting our abbey. She was left alone in her room, and there I would think she would rejoice at his return. But when he entered, she apparently spit at him and this time screamed, “He defiled me!”
I had hoped he would walk her out of our abbey right there. Cecile could go on growing into a beautiful woman, they could discuss whatever troubled her in private. Instead I walk this purgatory forever carrying the cross, of guilt, of the knowledge of what happened to her in our care.
M. Legion did not strike her, but instead called on us to restrain her. He went into the private chambers of our senior friar and shouted for what seemed to be a century.
Cecile was to be redeemed for what were described as malevolent acts against God and all mankind. Her redemption was a punishment most severe. She was to suffer as Christ did, to be crucified on a cross above the house of God that she had defiled.
I have never known a monk to harm another human, and never in such a barbaric way as crucifixion. And since that night no one knew who did it. They were under an oath of silence, whoever they were. Still, it is said, that four of our order took her from her quarters to the bell tower.
She was ordered to undress. I still imagine her thighs, naked and quivering as she stepped out of her garment.
Being an abbey, we were in no short supply of crosses, but I had never heard of one being used in such a way. She was given a cross that was just her height. It was made of finely crafted beams, their grain softened by years of weathering in the courtyard outside.
She knew of her fate, but didn’t know what sort of pain she would endure. I don’t know if her ascent up those cold stone steps in the middle of the night was worse for her then, or for my troubled mind. I am since transfixed by these events I did not actually witness. I see the curve of her breast behind the cross she carried, swaying under the curve of her back. And every step, I see her empty belly quiver as she gasped for air. Her ribs forming a holy archway holding her heart and lungs through their last moments on earth.
I see the tower now, the sepulcher, and I cry.
She was not scourged as Christ was, but that is not significant when she was nailed to the cross that would drain every last drop of life from her.
The large chamber at the top that held the bell was square at the base but rounded at the top, with four large arches at each side so that one could see the bell from any point above or below. When they reached the top of the tower they laid the foot of the cross on the floor at the top of the stairway, and they rested the head of it in a window.
They did not have to restrain Cecile on the cross, because she did not protest. I have heard a sudden calm came over her when she should have been at her most repentant. Perhaps she knew.
The bell tolled twelve times at midnight, as it has for many years. But that night, the bell muted the screams of a woman being nailed to her cross. Each toll brought each hammer fall, down deep into the spike with divine energy that split flesh and blood, wood and grain. They nailed her left hand, her right hand, and then her feet together. Four strokes each. Twelve penances in twelve distinct prayers.
One. The loudest scream by far, her soul was already being sapped from this world.
Two. A nasal groan as she choked for breath past the still weeping echo of the first.
Three. Newly excited, she was now understanding the pain that would become her.
Four. As the nail scraped and broke apart fragments of bones in her hand, she rose for every last shard.
Five. It was like that shout after hot, hot, hot burning water or fire on skin.
Six. Here she must have passed out or started to, as she groaned.
Eight. In her mind she was crying, as this terrible nightmare took over her body.
Nine. No soul could withstand the shock of of her pierced sole, and still there she woke.
Ten. With tears in her eyes, she wept loudly, and mumbled unintelligibly.
Eleven. Again the cries of searing pain as she tried to stretch for comfort but found none.
Twelve. Just screaming. Screaming that went on. Screaming that made us continue to toll the bell, for the first time ever in vain attempt to silence what we had done. Our abbey was an abyss filled with ringing no one wanted to hear again.
And there they raised her cross and I still see her whole body shudder as it was raised and placed between metal candelabra cemented into the tower walls.
She was crucified inside the tower facing the bell, only to be seen that night if one saw through the tower on the other side of the abbey. As her blood dripped and left a stain deep in the stones that would stay for centuries, her body began to sweat even on that cool autumn night. Blood and sweat dripped down her underarms, tread down the steps of her rib cage, and flowed into the bowl formed by her hips. This was the only sensation she must have felt other than the searing pain. Their liquid, serpentine touch, almost ethereal.
I heard the bell tolls that night, I heard them run long. That is the only evidence I have of this nightmare. I prayed for angels to swiftly take Cecile in their wings.
As dawn broke, her spirit drowned as if the mighty ocean itself was swallowed by tempests formed in the heavens. And in the morning her body was taken down, but the cross remained.
I was a monk once, but now am a murderer.
I heard her final words were, again, “He defiled me.”
I am reminded of the miracle of the cursed fig tree:
Mark 11:12-14 and 11:20-25
The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit. When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs. Then he said to the tree, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard him say it.
In the morning, as they went along, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots. Peter remembered and said to Jesus, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree you cursed has withered!” “Have faith in God,” Jesus answered. “Truly I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.”
October 9, 2011 § Leave a comment
Before the congregation,
Bridal eyes always in bloom,
Renew the time we spent together.
Let the sunlight in,
Past the stained glass,
We met to gather our composure.
I heard an angelic chorus,
Waved hands and entered her study,
Saying, pick me, pick me.
Let the sun show us flowers at the altar,
As the light dovetails and draws us out.
We’ll leave this place for a cathedral of our own:
Refilled with feather down.
By the river medley to warm the night
Sing along, stand strong, and lay down before the dawn.
Pick me, pick me
To wake you.
Pick me, pick me
To see clear.
On Sunday morning,
Church-bells echo, echo.
I woke alone in my room,
Caught glimpse of the afterglow.
The first word she said was love,
You held my open hand and we were one.
Before the congregation.
October 3, 2011 § Leave a comment
Autumn, in full blush
Red listless finger tips dig in
Through the trees. Eyes chase these
Auburn skies as our gaze blows further north.
Wanting to spring upon her leaves
Our bare branches. They trace with ease
We’ve followed down, warming the underground.
Dear, our voices raised
To call her here tried to sustain
The notes are clear. Wait for the grace of god
On the mourning when our timbres fall.
Child, she answers us
With floral tones on airs of earth and sea
Winter’s over. It never settled down for
We’ve the colors of endless love.
September 24, 2011 § Leave a comment
Driven in spider webs
No one looks up
Until the storm is rolling in.
Is kindness caught between
The air summoned up to breathe
Gasped back in, is it still there?
Fair weather is reaching out
Upon autumn leaves
We are burning the airs.
Are we weeding out
The color from the sun
Compassion, at the razor’s edge?
September 11, 2011 § Leave a comment
I love that,
Sea sweet ascent.
To repaired rooftops,
Post office vaulted classrooms,
Hearts of gold.
Where the wind on Main,
Awakes a dream of unity
To SUNY at Buffalo.
There now where in
Sororities and fraternities
Community service projects
Are broken up with
Here’s a lesson,
Rise above them.
Are this city’s halls.
How insubordinate can a peace officer be,
To turn on you?
Remember your heart of gold can be
To rise above
Tin rimmed tyrants
Of the gilded
Abuse of power.
Sorority sister following the orders…
Of a bully officer who then punched her in the face.
No riot can rectify an abuse like this,
No revolution can satisfy the demands of our hearts,
No, rise above to the sea sweet ascent from the shores of Lake Erie
That embraces us all.
UB, Bulls, come together right now.
September 11, 2011 § Leave a comment
As our buildings crumble,
Their shadows leave
In slow motion
Sailors follow suit
On their very evening
Off, the moon boils over
Ego shells get cracked in casing
Softly insulated yellow bellies
Move to the right lock and step
Back to leave a lonely shadow on the bay,
Tell me, when did all the bombs fall?
The devil’s in the ghost in the shell.
As for now it’s radioactive
Lake Erie sound
Salvation is beaming
On the smile between
The skull and bones
Cross your fingers we’ve
Planted enough warning signs
Ground enough steel to raise the curtains
Over the Ides of March from the left
And leaving party favors, fortune cookies
Half baked riddles asking:
If bombs had really fallen,
Would we be willing to leave this place like this?