AS A CHARTRES CATHEDRAL SCULPTURE OF A WOMAN READING, NORTH PORCH, EAST
come alive when no one is looking.
like to wander around old places like this.
could talk for hours about rose windows and relics –
Sancta Camisa here, the Holy Shroud
Teresa of Avila’s finger, Saint Catherine of Siena’s head,
my favorite, the missing Holy Prepuce.
been told I’m an old soul from a different time,
called “special,” “unusual,” “studious,” and “odd.”
who like to read and write get that a lot.
the choice between a party
a lecture on ancient manuscripts,
take the manuscripts every time.
love the smell of candles blown out, and of croissants
baked from the boulangerie nearby;
love the crackle of their outer crusts
they are broken apart.
almost had sex in the North Tower once,
my sartorial choices hindered full consummation.
often come through my door to be healed.
hear them whispering prayers as they enter.
can look at people’s pain without flinching now,
not without feeling. I am soft inside.
faith in what they hold sacred here
long ago, though slowly, over years,
I am still moved to tears by Adeste
Christmas, when every candle is lit,
the great organ plays, the people sing Adoremus,
the thurifer leads the procession
his censer, the cross behind him
high so all the people can see.
friendships and loves are few but deep.
separations from those I love
been reading for about a thousand years.
slow. Late-blooming. And what you might call
night-owl, most productive when the world is slumbering.
have to lie on my right side to fall asleep.
gal holding the baby dragon on a door
the West Façade says I snore.
dawn I sneak into the rectory for coffee.
like it light and sweet.
the gift shop I choose a new book sometimes
leave the previous one behind.
can be measured with my books-to-read list
the stories and poems I will write.
LADY AND THE FALCON
day, a falcon; by night a man.
was the bargain you struck
be with me. Your longing
the shape of talons, wings,
sharpest eye, the broadness
your shoulders compressed
this silent watcher circling
until the darkening sky
bring you close. Come to me,
wingéd love; press your flesh to mine
I can feel its warmth upon my skin,
your lips are soft enough,
breath no different from my own,
heat between us fire and light.
arms, your arms are my soaring,
sky, my shelter, and my flight.
lightening clouds are dread, dread.
dawn, you leave. I watch you bear
heart away, shape-shifter
your arms outstretched.
wings unfolded embrace and bear
cover my pain, for it has the shape
your wings, of my heart.
BEHIND THE BLUE DRAPE
the secret life of an anaesthesiologist
wings aren’t easy to hide in an operating room.
constantly brushing against supply carts,
machines, and laparoscopy towers. I'm convinced
inadvertently feather-dust people with the downy edges
I don't keep them folded tightly against my scapulae.
of my colleagues is a centaur – like Chiron
mentored Asclepius. I also know a sphinx,
gryphon, a yeti, and a water nymph, all drawn
the healing arts, as liminal beings often are.
walk around the hospital and keep our incandescence
but once in a while our wings and furs
shining scales glimmer into view, or a whiff
ancient long-lost flora wafts over the surgical field.
in the call room at night,
I’m by myself and the pager is quiet,
unfurl my wings to their fullest span – aah! –
tip at the window, the other at the door,
amethyst plumage woven out of wounds
years past, and I look in the mirror and see
family’s wingéd women looking back –
and their descendants, whose power
shapeshift through songs and words is written
a spell into our molecular selves.
cousin whose oral arguments in court
a disgusting congressman.
daughter whose otherworldly music
lyrics can break hearts and heal them
at once. My grandmothers. My mother.
reach out their hands, palms toward my heart,
on me lakas ng loob, so when
off, and I have to fold my wings back in
go out into the world again, to give breath
that others might breathe, I fly.