This Scar—After a line by Fernando Lisboa

by Leslie Ullman

Lord, forgive me if I don’t look for you
beneath vaulted ceilings built by
canonical money and generations of peasants
sweating against blocks of stone.  Forgive me
that I shiver inside the stained glass
extravagance of Notre Dame;
that my neck aches beneath the Duomo’s
distant mosaics, while others bow over their
clasped hands as though You
resided there, Your providence housed
in ever smaller enclosures, each supplicant
the reverse end of a telescope.

Forgive me that I can’t forget the money
that has changed and changed hands
in Your name.  The darkened
centuries.  The multitudes
lashed, mowed down, locked away
from natural light . . .

Forgive me if the light rising from
the beads a shaman once pressed to resin
inside a gourd to resurrect the spirit world of
jaguar, iguana, scorpion, and snake
makes before me an altar of cerise and cobalt
and lifts me in a way I can’t explain.

Forgive me that I lose track of time when I behold
the space within curves of driftwood shaped
by the meeting of two rivers; that dancing
leaves me cleansed in sweat and eased of
travail; that I am consoled less by the thought
of heaven than I am by the dog who rises silently
to walk beside me when I leave the dance hall.