AT LA BASILIQUE DU SACRÉ-COEUR DE MONTMARTRE
I looked out on Montmartre and I wept.
So many roofs of straight slate, gray and blue,
the terra-cotta stovepipes all that kept
a hint of warmth and roundness in the view.
I sank against the fencing and I wrote,
pulling down my hat’s stiff, woven brim,
to pry the hemline of my overcoat
from where it had been caught on railing trim.
The simple motions of a simple soul
laboring to breathe at such a height –
ashamed, almost, unable to control
what caused the crowds no trouble at this sight.
We ordinary hordes, aboard this terrace:
musicians, jocks, performing artists, mimes,
so casually overlooking Paris
in covert, patient penance for our crimes.
My overwhelming flood of feeling gone,
I joined the pilgrimage, with drier peers,
lacking that protection from the sun
used nonchalantly to disguise my tears.
Requesting, “S’il vous plait, mais votre chapeau . . .”
a greeting usher smiled, “. . . remove it, please,”
forbidding interruption in the flow
of visitants through clerics on their knees.
Thus we filed — uncovered dust — the dim
interior become my second veil.
The usher passed, I gripped my hat’s bent brim.
We passed medallion images for sale.
The Virgo Pacis missing one wrought square
within the golden gateway to her shrine,
she nonetheless possessed the only prayer
petitioned from those seekers out of line.
We passed much holiness, but I returned,
revisiting the Virgin with her six
white, massive candles, upright and unburned
above the votives with their low, scarred wicks.