Entering Saint Patrick’s Cathedral

I have carried in my coat, black wet 
with rain. I stand. I clear my throat.

My coat drips. The carved door closes
on its slow brass hinge. City noises— 

car horns, bicycle bells, the respiration
truck engines, the whimpering 

steel in midtown taxi brakes—bend
in through the doorjamb with the wind 

then drop away. The door shuts plumb: it seals
the world out like a coffin lid. A chill, 

dampened and dense with the spent breath
of old Hail Marys, lifts from the smoothed

stone of the nave. I am here to pay
my own respects, but I will wait: 

my eyes must grow accustomed
to church light, watery and dim.

I step in. Dark forms hunch forward
in the pews. Whispering, their heads 

are bowed, their mouths pressed
to the hollows of clasped hands. 

High overhead, a gathering of shades
glows in stained glass: the resurrected 

mingle with the dead and martyred
in panes of blue, green, yellow, red. 

Beneath them lies the golden holy 
altar, holding its silence like a bell,

and there, brightly skeletal beside it,
the organ pipes: cold, chrome, quiet 

but alive with a vibration tolling
out from the incarnate 

source of holy sound. I turn, shivering
back into my coat. The vaulted ceiling 

bends above me like an ear. It waits:
I hold my tongue. My body is my prayer.

More by Malachi Black

In Our Late Empire, Love

drops from upper air,
                                         like rain,
clinging brightly
                                 to the fresh-cut hair
of children
                          and the infantry:
all hail
                 the clicking heel, all will
regale
                 the shrinking light
with grains
                      of wedding rice, of salt,
of sands as fit
                              a last brassy parade:
the marching band
                                      will soften
with its growing-distant
                                               drum,
the oscillating hand
                                        will stop
its waving
                     soon enough, soon
enough;
                   here now, the motorcade
hums
                gaily through the citizens’
applause
                       and the children’s eyes
bronze faintly
                             with the glint
of far-off fireworks,
                                    or firebombs,
or falling evening stars.

from “Bildungsroman”

                     i.m. Scott David Campbell (1982-2012)

 

Streetlights were our stars,
hanging from the midnight    
                                  in a planetary arc
above each empty ShopRite    
parking lot—spreading     
                                  steam-bright
through the neon dark—
buzzing like ghost locusts,
                                  trembling in the chrome
trance of an electrical charge
nested in each exoskeleton—
                                  pulling, pooling
a single syllable of light
from the long braid      
                                  of the powerlines
sighing above us as we climbed    
through bedroom windows
                                  with our hair combed
and our high-tops carefully untied—
as we clung to vinyl siding,
                                  as we crawled
crablike across rooftops, edging
toe-first toward the gutters
                                  so as not to rouse
the dogs—as we crept down    
onto cold drainpipes     
                                  through the lightning
in our lungs, leaping at last
into our shadows and at last
                                  onto the lawn,
landing as if in genuflection
to the afterhours fog—
                                  fluorescent
as the breath we left
beside us on the train tracks
                                  as we walked
each toward the others,
toward the barebulb
                                  glow of stardust
on the dumpsters
in the vacant late-night, lost

Related Poems

Shed

She is not afraid of gods. She leaves her skin,
still coiled, a great throat collapsed. 
Gods have entered and left.

The door sounds like a throat clearing
in its rusty evolution toward shadow,
an atrium from scalding noon.

She treats the dark like a cathedral.
She is all swallow, the heart working
under every scale to outgrow a fortified spiral.

The cathedral swallows the heart.
Take up your broom. No gods are left.
She finished the mice in time for autumn's gloom.

There are some cathedrals like this shed
behind the house where she shunned her body
and in the dark was not afraid of gods.

Sunlight pulls past our legs
on the plywood and pools in the coiled skin
that overwintered.

Dig your broom into corners.
She is not afraid of gods or matriarchs.

Homecoming Cistern Alien Vessel

Oh, my planet, how beautiful 
you are. Little curve that leads me 
to the lakeside. Let me step out

of the sack of skin I wore 
on earth. It’s good to be home. 
No more need to name me. No more 

need to make the shape of a machete
with my mouth. Pushing up up up the tired 
sides that want to drop below my teeth.

Lord, I’ve missed you. The streets
covered all day in light from the moons. 
I was confused all the time. I wanted so much.

My hole felt like a gut with an antler
rammed through it. So lonely and strange
and always trying to smile. Coin of the realm.

And my arms open and my life
coming in and out of the “ATM.”
Once I saw a fox leap inside the morning

light and made the same shape
of myself. Once I watched the boats
and also rocked back and forth.

How does every person not cry out 
all the time? Yes, it was good to eat 
doughnuts. Yes. I was blessed by many 

days of joy. A rabbit in the driveway.
A rosemary bush with a sorcerer’s cloak
of spider webs. Brian Eno. 

The Hammond B3 Organ that never asked
me who I knew. But that body.
Like a factory. That mind like a ship

built to pile in other bodies. Skin like a
sow without any of the sow’s equanimity.
It reflected nothing. Pink skin. Blue eyes

hard as an anvil. Like a window with covering
that refuses the passerby’s gaze. I loved 
the bully power some days. Oh my pleasure 

in not causing harm. My pride. I’m not like 
so-and-so. My pink skin preaching, my pink skin 
yawping out my other hole, “I did not choke 

the man with my elbow!” “Would never!” 
“I let all the boys in hoodies walk
through dark streets.” “I did not shoot

them with my guns!” The ship rising
up inside me. As if the fox felt pride 
for not tearing the bird to pieces. As if 

the owl’s heart grew large from not 
wrecking the squirrel’s nest. My pink skin 
a sail full of indignation. My eyes pitching

across the feed. It is so good to be home
and yet. I have a ship inside. How can 
the organ welcome me? I’m not a sow 

on her worst day. Which would be what? 
Breaking from the barn? Eating all the acorns
and rolling in the mud? No.

Her worst would be at my hands 
and on my plate for supper. Grow
like the tree, the man who heals

the bodies said. In every way I became
the ship rising in the harbor. 
How can I be welcomed after that?

Prayer

our Father I do love to walk
down to the shore at dawn
while the ground is cold
and there sprinkle my cells
to smashed ocean radios
I dream that I was born
with no tongue and that
I can neither ask nor
answer nor understand
questions about where
I come from that the waves
are my clapping sisters
so many dark swallowed
ships my deleted thoughts
cannon and coin pulp
my new body and that any
one of a million canyons
trembling with the psalms
of stones is my easily
remembered mother who
easily remembers me