Everything but God - Anne Pierson Wiese
In Europe you can see cathedrals
from far away. As you drive toward them
across the country they are visible—stony
and roosted on the land—even before the towns
that surround them. In New York you come
upon them with no warning, turn a corner
and there one is: on 5th Avenue St. Patrick's,
spiny and white as a shell in a gift shop; dark
St. Agnes lost near a canal and some housing
projects in Brooklyn; or St. John the Divine,
listed in every guidebook yet seeming always
like a momentary vision on Amsterdam
Avenue, with its ragged halo of trees, wide stone
steps ascending directly out of traffic.
Lately I have found myself unable
to pass by. The candles' anonymous
wishes waver and flame near the entrance, bright
numerous, transitory and eternal
as a migration: the birds that fly away
are never exactly the same as those that return.
The gray, flowering arches' ribs rise
until they fade, the bones so large and old
they belong to an undetected time
on earth. Here and there people's small backs
in prayer, the windowed saints' robes' orchid
glow, the shadows—ghosts of a long nocturnal
snow from a sky below when we did not yet
exist, with our questions tender as burns.
"Everything but God" by Anne Pierson
Wiese, from Floating City. © Louisiana State University Press, 2007.
Reprinted with permission