Church

The oil painting of a woman, nude.

 

The oil painting of a woman,

lying naked across a red bed

with a fat, happy baby searching for her breast,

and a blue sky in view from the window,

hung in the dining room for two generations.

It was painted by a woman with a great talent.

When I was a boy, my grandmother told me

that the artist loved my grandfather

and had given the painting to him.

The woman in the painting was the artist herself

and the baby was the baby she never had.

Now, as a man

with no living grandparents,

I often wonder why my grandmother

had allowed such a painting to hang in the home.

Was it because it is a beautiful image, the flesh so soft and sensual,

The colours so clear and bright?

 

I only remember dark flashes of my grandfather,

I remember him as a happy, kind man.

My grandmother, a widow at the time she stood me before the painting,

Smiled at some hidden memory and asked me if I liked the picture.

I nodded and said I liked the baby.

She was satisfied, and we stood a while,

On that dark winter afternoon,

We looked at that painting, lit only by weak sunlight

Until my father turned on the room’s light.

The brightness broke the spell and we both looked away,

The electric light was too bright and harsh for that moment.

It hangs there still, like a spirit that haunts that room,

that woman forever looking out, searching for love,

while that baby, forever tiny, caught between a smile and a yawn,

begs to be born.

The Cathedral

The cathedral still stands mighty

Near the river in the city of my childhood.

I have seen it so many ways.

As a child, in wonder at its yellow stone greatness,

Receiving my confirmation.

As a student at Saint Michael’s high school,

Where I watched in terror

As older boys took out silver coins

And began to dig into stone walls,

Carving trenches in the glorious architecture.

What sins they committed

What vandalism,

The glory of God, raped by a silver coin

In the sticky fist of a dead end.

Then, more recently,

From her window.

The Cathedral lit up by powerful lights.

Fingers pointing to the sky,

The greatest buildings are alive

Even when seen at 2 am.