In the Footsteps of Barth
March 25, 2012
My Father, Who Art in Heaven
March 27, 2012

sighs; long-held breaths i kept for forty years
that rattled the cage of the living.

i passed on, you see, passed the mythical gate
of the pious, the walls of the saved

and as i saw the steps in front of me,
marble madness and carpenter’s fill,

enrobed with my history,
her cracks a tribute to palsied

foundation—i tucked fast away the
air God begged me to breathe.

——because he led me to this place—
this hollow tomb, this brilliant sepulcher

radiating fault. its images were constantly
canvassing for thought, its pillars quaking

with uncertain, shifting weight. tall, she
stood, but bumbling. nature had not consented

yet; her soldiers of explosive rock, of crushing
waves and fever-ridden wind stood poised

to knock her down. and i was sure my
face was etched within her, in every cavern

of false stone, every jutting precipice, the
statues incomplete that hobbled on the dome,

the non-conforming columns, splintered
with veins from head to foot:

my signature in stone.

and round about the curvatures that ancients
taught and soon enamored me, that i

so infantile loved and set about to imitate,
and on the rolling ground where worship

crested with a prayer and friends convened,
on jetties stuck between to bolster

her, all my etchings, all my dreams
were scrawled–how majestic she would stand!

had i, in forty passes of mortality
been so makeshift glorious in all

that i had built? for angels smile,
but they are obligated; saints have

praised, but stand to watch her
at a distance; and God says nothing of it all.

so i wander through this hobbled home, a copied
greatness that so un-great has always been

and wonder if too-heavy cherubim, anxious
in their marble for a purpose, will not collapse

on me with pillar, mast, and ceiling?
that i have come to heaven to review

my forty-year accomplishment and die a
second time beneath its tired weight?

——though as the misery of my construction
swells—God save me, i’m no architect—

i lift my head to see the sky, and there
beyond its captive face, roll hills of

verdant fields and busy families, no place
for happiness, but they are happy.

and cities that i see, torches of light, buildings
and temples and fountains and statues erected.

each was differently postured, the crooks and bends
in their steeples and edifices, the mismatching

colors, the worst of all cities by sight i had seen!
but happy the citizens were, brilliant its scape

in the light of the sun. and as i returned my gaze to
the forty-year temple, my monument, my life,

i saw it was perched on the greenest of hills,
the highest of any, and star of the sun.

——in the careless and nurturing sunshine,
generations of family came running

through grass, taller than i, through
mustard bushes and elaborate vines,

until at the steps of my temple they massed,
standing in silence, expectantly still.

i cannot say why, for what reason at all,
but i turned to face her, crooked and

cracked, gallantly gleaming, nestling
beams of the forty-year house, and i led

the great bastion of peoples—mothers and
fathers and sisters and sons, daughters

and orphans and people i never had known–
i led them up uneven steps of

wuthering clay, past grimacing Caesars
and dis-confident poets, to the

heart of that home. and i shared then my
etchings, and i laughed at the statues,

at the props and pullies that offered support.
and though without prompting, and never

were taught, the many ran home, faster than
came, to retire to home in the afternoon rays

of the sun.

——the morning thereafter was silent, sated with prayer.
when i woke from the glint of the

seraphim’s eye and the wind coursing
through the prophet’s high mouth, i

heard the rhythm of hammer and saw.
i looked to the cities, and glimpsed in their

streets, the many rebuilding their homes:
faces they figured, columns they chiseled

so the vast, unending plain of citizen streets
drew the vision of forty-year faults,

dizzying streams of weakening cracks,
and a ceiling held high on a prayer.

i am no architect, i said at a whisper,
turning to smile at the sun.

but god has his ways, and has asked for
this lopsided temple that falls

——it’s enough i will live here,
how long he should ask, in my forty-year temple,

myself and my home.

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