Doesn't it sound like peace in this chapel?
Stooped old men in a dark choir, girded with rosaries
peer from monks' hoods with wrinkled faces,
raise voices to god in harmony,
swelling and soaring, the stained glass windows seem to listen:
you'd think humanity had surpassed humanity.
One of these men will walk from this church in anger,
one will leave with a sly smile twisting his lips,
one will plot and plan and pretend
and one will strike a bitter blow to fix
one who played a bitter trick on him. Yet
the faithful visit here for peace and for goodness
and these men's hands make miracles of stone and earth
and miracles of ink and paper, lives and voices;
every patch of grass, every field and corner
speaks of peace and of work and of goodness.
But here too men speak spitefully of other men
and here men thwart other men for bitter decades,
detestation and dislike make friends
and men who whisper ill of other men are praised;
men plot to deny their brothers' advancement
and go to the grave with curses for prayers.
Peace visits this place no more often
than cities that glare with neon,
than streets where good things are done and hearts broken,
than streets where hearts are mended and bad things done;
and there is no refuge from the world in the end
in this place there is no refuge,
there is only the world in the end.
Published, 1999, in Snakeskin, September issue