The Small White Byzantine Chapel

On this island nude and nearly treeless
(But for the few acacia trees in bloom
In the small white plazas of stone and sun
With their zones of salt and seaweed aroma),

On the far side, across the island rock
(And the dry wind and fresh donkey dung),
The cupola of the white chapel stares:
A stucco eyeball brightening the sky.

Inside are sparks and fumes of incense,
And candle flames before the iconostasis, 
Where a slant-eyed Virgin leans in grief:
O points of mystery in the finite space!
Through the black air (within the whitewashed dome),
The priest leads the orphans in prayer and song.
O lifelong darkness of the finite vault,
And the white dome vainly searching the sky.

From Mexico In My Heart: New And Selected Poems (Carcanet, 2015) by Willis Barnstone. Copyright © 2015 by Willis Barnstone. Used with the permission of the author.