A Reading from the Gospel of Jesus Christ
June 12, 2008
June 19, 2008

Amid the waste of rural days
And banks of high-tuft grass
Shrouded in the fevered fog,
Your cattle grazed.

Your son, it seems, has taken to
With labors menial and harsh.
Those calloused hands, unworked
And striking soft, will someday
Mount the walls.

In the foundry of those digits
Plied good work, a meaningful
Construction, if rent from roof
To steps in twain.

I see: from on the shire,
Thrones for cattle roaming free;
Their kingship in a crooked stall,
And fumbling; their feed, the hay
That buttresses the flaccid earth.

Long days when concrete is
Ensigned to those bitter hands of
Wageless work, pours upon the
Brick face, mold within eternal mold.
And soon collapses, regal halls
Where chewed the bovine kings—

But onward! for himself,
The young mason stirs the callous straw,
Goads the petrified produce of the kiln;
And now, mounts her like arithmetic,
Number on number, until the figures stand.

His suns he wastes on dry perfections
Quick to crumble, sooner than his innocence,
To untilled yards of England’s fold.
No burning lusts command him;
No romance dulls his earnest hand.
No curriculum in life but building,
For this the son of civilized land.

One day, I saw him wrest the pastures
From their peace; wherein he sculpted
Mansions, brick on brilliant brick:
Such firm foundation laid!

There should have been 100 rooms
Nested in the cold defenses of those homes.
While cattle, grazing freely, usurped
Another pasture bare; no mason soon
To build them banquet halls and havens
From the bitter cold.

And so the years leant much to our young mason,
Now a full-fold man.
His occupation was construction; his God, I fear,
Lived somewhere in the muddy make of clay,
In brilliant heat that fired all his ovens.

So great was he, so skilled a master at his craft,
The kind of England summoned him to build—
To fashion there a castle, wall to wall.
Soon the mason laid his plans, and conjured
Miles of stone, and brick, and hands.

He clapped down wakes of trees
Wherefrom he grew, for there the
Faultless, firm foundation soon would rest.
By wary stars and shamèd sun, the bricklayer
Found his castle slowly built.

Oh, what august battlement!
It crowned a thousand chambers,
A dozen thrones, and halls of majesty
And might; its fortitude convened at
Gates of iron, parapets enrapt with gold!
Reaching towers grew like arms from
Crenelated corners, each stretch of wall
Unfurling standards of the king.

Who would farm? the mason thought,
When one could erect such majesty from nothing?
What is love, indeed, what is faith
In the shadow of rarefied walls, brilliant with
Strength, impregnable, and stark do
Command the day?

But it was shortly lived, within the mason’s
Hallowed walls.
For on that very eve, the trumpets roared
And smoke billowed from the highest chambers—
Shouts curdled on the restless wind,
And stench ensued.
The august fortress of the king and his
Most perfect mason lay bald and ever brittle
Beneath the siege of battle.

It was not long afore the boulders flew,
And walls, however grown with pride,
Crumbled at their merciless raid on high.
How the clarion call, ringing at the red dusk,
Could not the enemy vanquish, not the
Fortress hold!

For sweet scent of blood crept upon the stale air
As morning rose reluctant to her pall;
Bodies lined the caverns of that castle fair:
Servants, nobles, ladies, and a king
Beneath it, lifeless, limp.

But there was a bricklayer survived
The massacre of men, left alone
Within to quench the blood lust of
A foreign peoples.
Out above, through heapèd bodies,
Up the track that lent leftover walls
He climbed the pinnacles of the fortress’
Greatest arm;
And there, to the once-was brilliant earth,
Looked down.

What has a lover more to live for, if
The heart is wrecked from bloodied love?
What is a father then to do,
Children buried in the time before they’re due?
And what is a simple mason, master of his craft,
If all his object, step to spire, is destroyed within a night?

Staring out into the haze of sky, he smelled the pasture;
And as he leapt upon the air, saw herds of cattle
Grazing in the vast expanse of green, on the shire,
Deep below.

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