In A Secular City

PŒdraig J. Daly
1. Dublin: Angelus

Once these bells were chains to times of miracle:

A girl travelling through hill-country, full of god.

Two women before a farmhouse, Sunlight and meadowlight,

A wombed child leaping for joy.

The town of Bethlehem, the ox, the ass:

Common straw becoming gold while we stared.

Before innocence was lost, God invisible uttering a word.

2. Hammersmith: St. Paul's

Brown stone glistens in the rain;

The motorway sweeps swiftly by a floodlit tower, Built for another time,

For slower streets and quiet English prayer.

Compassion should have bulldozed it from view, Humbled beneath the fly over,

Where once it awed the borough.

3. Siena: La Pinacoteca Nazionale

The plaster flakes in the churches; Woodwork devours pews

Where old women kneel before garish statues of St. Roch. Their sweet Madonnas hang in a neon picturegallery.

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Created by Readiris, Copyright IRIS 2004

It is there we go for surreptitious prayer, Reading on coloured wood

Transcendent interest in our frets, Touching the broken heart of all creation.

Created by Readiris, Copyright IRIS 2004

4. Orvieto: Cathedral

Schoolchildren laugh at devils

That scared the wildest bucks of Orvieto into virtue; and at the dead stretching ecstatic limbs for Paradise.

5. Paris: St. Leu et St. Gilles

The Rue Saint Denis at night

Is full of all the loneliness of the world.

Beautiful girls in oriental silks stand in the doorways; Exiles of everyplace jostle along the footpaths;

Signs entice the curious into dark rooms Filled with impossible images;

Neon creates an artificial day.

There is a concert of baroque music

In the church of St. Leu and St. Gilles. The orchestra outnumbers the audience;
A flautist solos mournfully ... All the loneliness of the world.
Page 74, Poetry Ireland Review Issue 28